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Thursday, August 08, 2013

Brazilian Women's Group Opposes Massachusetts Commission Licensing Sonnen 

Below is a letter sent by the Brazilian Women's Group, a non-profit organization based in Brighton, Massachusetts, opposing the licensing of UFC fighter Chael Sonnen by the Massachusetts State Athletic Commission. It is reposted in its entirety, minus only the footnotes.

July 26, 2013

Ms. LaTeisha Adams
Chairperson, Massachusetts State Athletic Commission
One Ashburton Place, Room 1301
Boston, Massachusetts 02108

Re: Recommendation to Deny a Fighter’s License to Chael Patrick Sonnen

Dear Ms. Adams:

We are writing to recommend that members of the Massachusetts State Athletic Commission deny the application for a professional fighter’s license to Chael Patrick Sonnen, who is scheduled to compete in the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) event on August 17th at the TD Garden in Boston.

The Brazilian Women's' Group (BWG) was started in 1995 by a group of Brazilian immigrant women of various backgrounds and occupations. The women hoped to "make a difference" in the wider Brazilian community, encouraging its members, particularly women, to stand up for their rights in the United States. The Brazilian Women’s Group’s Mission is to promote the empowerment of Brazilian women and the Brazilian community in the Boston area.

Since 2010 and continuing into the current year, Sonnen has repeatedly violated the standards for professional behavior for unarmed combatants in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, as set forth under Sections 20.03 of the Code of Massachusetts Regulations (CMR).[Note:i] These rules empower the Commission to revoke the license of any combatant who has behaved in a manner that is “deemed by the Commission to reflect discredit to unarmed combat,” or to suspend the license of a combatant arrested or convicted on a charge involving moral turpitude. [Note:ii]

Sonnen, who goes by the nickname “American Gangster,”[Note:iii] has demonstrated that he is unable to meet these minimum standards of professional behavior. Sonnen has made public statements that are insulting to Brazilians, African Americans, women and members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community, in violation of Section 20.03 of Title 523 of CMR:

The Commission would bring discredit to the activity of unarmed combat, and to thousands of people who train and compete in this activity, if it approved Sonnen’s application for a professional fighter’s license and allowed him to compete on national television at the August 17th event in Boston. The UFC event will coincide with the launch of the new “FOX Sports 1” network[Note:iv], which means that potentially millions of young viewers will be exposed to Sonnen and his insulting and incendiary language.

Sonnen has brought discredit to professional unarmed combat by making a series of remarks in public that are insulting to minority groups or, in other cases, that encourage violence or gross insults. The following are some examples of some irresponsible and offensive public statements by Sonnen:

o In 2010, through his public Twitter account, Sonnen reportedly told his Brazilian opponent’s manager to, “Pray to whatever demon effigy you prance and dance in front of with your piglet tribe of savages that I decide not to CRUCIFY you.”[Note:v] Also through his Twitter account, Sonnen reportedly wrote of his opponent, “You are going to be on your back more than a pornstar with a mortgage.” Sonnen denied that he made the statements and said that the Twitter account was fake.[Note:vi]

o At a pre-fight UFC press conference in 2010, Sonnen said of Portuguese, “It's a step harder picking up that language than it is understanding Pig Latin."[Note:vii]

o In a July 2011 interview, Sonnen said two UFC fighters from Brazil confused a bus for a horse on a visit to the United States. Sonnen said of Brazilian fighter Antônio Rogério Nogueira, known by the nickname “Little Nog,” and Antônio Rodrigo Nogueira, known as “Big Nog,” that, “There was a bus that pulled up to a red light and Little Nog tried to feed it a carrot, while Big Nog was petting it. He thought it was a horse. This really happened. He tried to feed a bus a carrot, and now you’re telling me that country has computers?”[Note:viii] In the same interview, Sonnen referred to Wanderlei Silva, another fighter from Brazil, as “an immigrant.”[Note:ix]

o In July 2011, Sonnen threatened criminal activity against opponent Wanderlei Silva. He said, “Listen Wanderlei, I will do a home invasion on you. I will cut the power to your house and the next thing you hear will be me climbing up your stairs in a pair of night-vision goggles I bought in the back of Soldier of Fortune magazine. I’ll pick the lock to the master-room door, take a picture of you in bed with the Nogueira brothers working on your Jiu-Jitsu.”[Note:x]

o In November 2011, Sonnen used demeaning language to insult Arianny Celeste, a UFC “Octagon Girl.” Sonnen referred to Celeste, who entertains the crowd between rounds at UFC events by holding up cards with round numbers[Note:xi], as the “IQ card girl.” Sonnen said, “Arianny kind of walks around and holds up her latest test score. One time when there was a title fight, she got all the way up to five and we were very proud of her.”[Note:xii]

o In a 2011 interview, Sonnen referred to his opponent Anderson Silva as “a little fruity boy.”[Note:xiii]

o In August 2011, Sonnen made an anti-gay comment when describing unarmed combat. He said, "Even if I could get a submission, I’m not laying under a grown man with my legs spread on worldwide TV. There are some guys who subscribe to that theory, but I’m a Republican. We don’t do that."[Note:xiv]

o In January 2012, Sonnen appeared in an online video on YouTube giving advice to young people on fighting. He said, “If he slaps you punch him. If he punches you, kick him. If he kicks you, stab him. If he stabs you, shoot him. If he shoots you, you go kill his family.” Although Sonnen mentioned in the same speech, “I hope that we’re old enough that I can tell this without people taking it for something that it’s not” and “of course I’m not talking about hurting someone,” the young audience he was addressing might have been impressed or misled.[Note:xv]

o In April 2012, Sonnen said, “When I was a little kid, I'd go outside with my friends and we'd talk about the latest technology, in medicine, gaming and American ingenuity -- and [Brazilian fighter Anderson Silva] and the Brazilian kids are sitting outside playing in the mud.”[Note:xvi]

o In July 2012, Sonnen directed derogatory comments at the wife of his opponent, Anderson Silva, stating, “You tell Anderson Silva I'm coming over and I'm kicking down his back door and patting his little lady on the (butt), and I'm telling her to make me a steak, medium-rare, just how I like it.”[Note:xvii]

o In a video posted online in January, dubbed “Chael Sonnen - Truth Talk Academy,” Sonnen purports to be coaching people on how to degrade others through insults. Sonnen said, “You’ve heard me incite entire countries, and you will continue to watch me verbally massacre anybody who gets in my way.”[Note:xviii] Sonnen continues, “Here at the Chael Sonnen Truth Talk Academy, you’ll learn the most basic principle of verbal attack - the insult.”[Note:xix] Sonnen then ridicules a young person’s weight,[Note:xx] and then he encourages a woman to be more creative with a physical threat after she has already threatened to rip out a person’s intestines.[Note:xxi]

o Sonnen has twice referred to an African American opponent as “boy,” a term that is often perceived as racist and demeaning when it is used to refer to an adult black male. In April, Sonnen was quoted as yelling, “Come on, boy!” at opponent Jon Jones.[Note:xxii] On the television show “UFC Tonight,” Sonnen again used the derogatory term “boy” while threatening Jones on the show. Sonnen said, “I'm a fully-loaded cannon, boy, and I'm pointed right at you.”[Note:xxiii]

o This month, at a UFC fan event in Las Vegas, Sonnen threatened violence against a mixed-martial arts fan who criticized him. Sonnen, who was speaking from a microphone on a stage, yelled at the fan, “Man, I’m about to come down there and whip your ass in a second.”[Note:xxiv] Sonnen then yelled, “Speak English! I don’t speak ghetto.”[Note:xxv]

In April, Sonnen brought further discredit to unarmed combat, and to thousands of athletes who participate and train in the various disciplines of martial arts, when he publicly dismissed the validity of martial arts as a sport. Sonnen was quoted by FOX Sports as saying:

“Martial arts isn’t a sport. Martial arts is a bunch of crap. This is a fistfight. Martial arts is a legal term. The legislature in Nevada in 2001, when we were trying to get a bill passed, needed to call it something to regulate it. It isn’t martial arts. This is a fistfight in a steel cage on Saturday night.” [Note:xxvi]

Sonnen has used his reputation as a notorious trash talker to bolster his own popularity and to denigrate mixed-martial arts as an activity. A columnist for the Huffington Post wrote, “In the UFC, Chael Sonnen has become better known for vitriol and increasingly racist sounding messages on twitter than his fighting ability.”[Note:xxvii] A Sports Illustrated columnist said of Sonnen that, “He shows no respect for the sport and its fighters.”[Note:xxviii]

Given Sonnen’s history of racist comments in public, the Commission should be concerned that he could use the opportunity to appear before a nationally televised audience on August 17th in Boston to insult minority groups and bring further discredit to unarmed combat.

Under Section 20.03 of Title 523 of the CMR, the Commission is empowered to suspend or revoke the license of any unarmed combatant who has:

o “Conducted themselves at any time or place in a manner which is deemed by the Commission to reflect discredit to unarmed combat” [Note:xxix]

o “Failed to execute the duties of their position in a skillful, professional manner generally expected of an individual holding that position”[Note:xxx]

o Knowingly dealt or consorted with a person who has “engaged in any activity or practice that is detrimental to the best interests of unarmed combat” [Note:xxxi]

There is no question that Sonnen has violated these basic guidelines, and should be prevented from bringing further discredit to unarmed combat by appearing at a public event in Boston. No combatant with such a history of behavioral problems and incendiary language should be allowed to compete in Massachusetts, much less on a nationally televised stage.

Therefore, we strongly recommend that the Commission exercise its statutory authority and deny Sonnen a professional license to compete in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

Sincerely, Heloisa Maria Galvão
BWG Co-Founder and Executive Director

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