By Zach Arnold | November 7, 2013
Last July, we wrote an article about the brewing battle between the United States Fight League and the California State Athletic Commission. ABC, via their long-standing news program Nightline, grilled Sacramento about the kids pankration events happening throughout the state (and Arizona). The events happen both at traditional gyms and also on tribal land at casinos.
Adding to the political heat Sacramento was facing was the fact that Pilgrim Studios, the producers of The Ultimate Fighter reality show, inked a TV deal with the USFL. This lead to Foster sending USFL a cease-and-desist letter. It infuriated parents involved in kids pankration. This led to CSAC creating a two-person sub-committee to talk to the USFL and try to figure out a way to sanction events. Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla passed AB 1186 in the State House to have CSAC’s tentacles involved in monitoring pankration for future events.
The reason Andy Foster wanted to get ahead of this issue so aggressively is because there is a growing media interest in covering the topic and blasting all parties involved. After the Nightline interview, he decided to put his foot down. The problem is that there are photos and videos available that are being easily framed in a way to push the story as child abuse and bullying.
When the British tabloids get their hands on a story, you know it’s trouble. The Daily Mail in the UK, which often focuses on salacious stories in the States, wrote this picture-filled item online: “Inside the outrageous world of child cage fighting: Tiny boys who are trained to attack each other in America’s baby MMA arenas.“
The Daily Mail item was a summary of a CNN Photos post featuring Polaris Images showing kids in arm bars, crying, and parents actively involved in kids pankration.
Because CNN and Daily Mail picked up on the story, other media outlets are starting to spend some time on the matter as well. On Wednesday, Fox News’s resident liberal Bob Beckel showed images from Polaris and ripped into the parents who are involved in kids pankration. They pushed the angle that a bunch of 5 and 6 year old kids are breaking bones and showed footage from the Nightline show on the USFL. Beckel said that MMA is the most barbaric sport in existence and that it should be banned on the kid’s pankration, on the amateur level, and on the professional level.
In response to the negative press attention, USFL posted this statement online this past Monday:
Did you know the vast majority of kids who actively compete in Pankration have a B average or higher in school. Should their academic credentials be included with their competition accolades during All Star shows?
So much ignorance in the media but also our own Martail Arts community reagrding the effects of this sport on our youth. We can show documented evidence of the safety but how can we combat the misconception of bullies and bad kids?
Ignoring the naysayers is not an option since they are the ones who go to the media and legislators. We have overwhelming evidence that we are doing a good thing, producing good kids both on the mat and off.
How to we ensure the facts are presented when someone reports on our sport?
Our problem is solely political right now. If we just rely on the facts of our safety and sportsmanship we are golden. Unfortunately we are getting beat up in public relations And it’s all due to ignorance And the media looking for easy ratings. If only we had a good public relations person with us. The kids speak for themself.
We also have kids with learning disabilities who don’t get A’s, B’s and C’s but I’m sure they are doing better because they participate in this Martial Art. As long as we allow cameras in the venues people will film and take photos, some will be exploited so we need all the ammo possible to counter the vast majority who make ignorant statements of street fighting, brain damage and bullies. The majority of our kids are exceptional students, why not celebrate their academic accomplishments while shutting up the critics. This is a necessary evil. The problem with Pankration is solely political. If we do nothing to combat the political / public perception we will continue to be targeted by legislators like Susan Bonilla.