By Zach Arnold | October 11, 2016
Wow, look at the new 'judicial' look of the NSAC pic.twitter.com/7VKkjVf9uF
— Erik Magraken (@erikmagraken) October 10, 2016
“Conor McGregor was fined $150,000 and sentenced to 150 hours of community sentence.”
This was the text message viewers watching Comcast Sportsnet saw Monday night in the United States. If you didn’t know the details of the water bottle fiasco involving Conor McGregor and who was punishing him, you would have been under the impression that he was being hauled in a court room for a criminal hearing.
The Nevada State Athletic Commission is an administrative civil body. It is not a criminal court. However, that is no longer the image the public agency wants to portray to the public. The Athletic Commission is visually and administratively acting as a tribunal with authority for criminal punishment. Last Spring, we documented the significant changes that the Athletic Commission made to its rules and regulations. A major symbolic change that nobody picked up on was the fact that the Athletic Commission changed the wording in their rules and regulations to remove text stating that they are a civil body. It was a red flag for intent and motive of what was coming in the future.
When the Nevada State Athletic Commission brought Bob Bennett on board as its new Executive Director, it promised significant changes were coming for drug testing and administrative procedure. Those changes were implemented. The war on doping was ramping up. What the Athletic Commission didn’t count on was the state of Nevada cutting off general funding to finance the Athletic Commission. The Nevada State Athletic Commission, generating millions of dollars a year for the state’s general fund, now found itself put into a situation of self-financing in order to pay their own bills. They got hit with years of back-dated claims from the state’s Attorney General office in legal bills.
The end result is that the Nevada State Athletic Commission, once considered a gold standard in athletic commissions, has resorted to extortionary money-grabbing tactics against fighters in order to pay administrative bills that the taxpayers in the state of Nevada used to pay for.
Extortion is obtaining property from another person using threats of force or fear (blackmail). Extortion is a word to be used delicately but it applies to the current behavior from the Athletic Commission. During the Spring, members of the Athletic Commission openly stated in public comment that in order to avoid paying legal fees to the AG’s office that they would start pushing licensees facing discipline to accept plea deals or else go in front of the commission under the threat of paying legal fees and facing harsher punishments. Additionally, language in at least one plea deal contained the word “guilty” instead of “liable.”
Reporting indicates that the deal from the Attorney General’s office was a $25,000 fine for Conor McGregor and 25 hours of community service. McGregor decided to have a hearing in front of the Athletic Commission and they changed the fine to $150,000 and 50 hours of community service. The worst example of a trial tax.
Ms. Lundvall – always the voice of justice and reason and never infatuated with abuse of administrative power https://t.co/fl0C7kO0T9
— Lucas Middlebrook (@lkmiddleb) October 10, 2016
This new policy of electrocuting due process and confiscating large sums of cash has emboldened members of the Athletic Commission to play the role of prosecutor in a no-lose situation where they get to look tough and act as though they have legal authority they do not possess. Licensees facing discipline in Nevada are faced with the terrible scenario of either accepting a plea deal, exercising limited rights for a watered-down due process, or having to petition a judge for judicial review and risk paying substantial legal bills to fight the Athletic Commission. The Nevada State Athletic Commission has turned due process into a naked form of asset forfeiture.
Excluding all the issues related to more aggressive drug testing, the Athletic Commission has turned Nevada into hostile territory for fighters who want to earn a pay day in a state with no income tax. At this point in time, managers should smartly advise their fighters to participate in states like Texas or Florida. The quality of regulation may be worse but the level of hostility towards fighters is not.
Despite the challenges of self-financing, the Nevada State Athletic Commission continues to generate enough revenue to pay their bills. The media focus should now be on where the money is going. Follow the money. There is a legitimate story to discuss about where the money is going and how it is being spent.
Who wants to talk and at what price tag?