Rep. Rev. Steve Hickey (R-9/Sioux Falls) is picking a fight. Actually, he's picking some kinds of fighting over others and seeking a ban on cage fighting.
Last month the Senate passed Senate Bill 84, a measure to create a commission to regulate boxing, kickboxing, and mixed martial arts events in South Dakota. SB 84 would put the state's seal of approval on the violent entertainment that communities like Madison have already embraced as moneymakers.
Rep. Hickey says he can live with boxing, wrestling, and even "legitimate" martial arts contests. But, choosing some fighting words, he calls mixed martial arts "cage fighting' and says these "blood-soaked slugfests" are the "child porn of sports":
The psychological community will tell you that desensitization to violence works exactly like desensitization to porn. You know how porn progresses… a peek at topless isn’t enough, it all has to come off, then a pic is not enough… it goes to video then to virtual and then to the devaluation and mistreatment of women, human trafficking and sex crimes against women. Violence works the same way. Boxing wasn’t enough so they took the gloves off, then they allowed kicking, kneeing people in the head, then elbows to the face, then they put a cage around it. The point is to knock the other guy unconscious while pay per view crowds cheer it on. Why not nunchucks? In Rome they’d gather in colosseums and bring out prisoners and entertain themselves by making them fight to the death. That wasn’t enough so they brought out helpless and hated and brought in the hungry lions. Crowds cheered [Rep. Rev. Steve Hickey, "Ban MMA in South Dakota...," Gate Post, 2013.02.23].
Rep. Hickey hears the "economic development" and "everyone else is doing it so why can't we?" justifications and pops both bubbles:
If that’s all we can come up with for economic development we are in trouble. And our decisions on our tolerance for things violent shouldn’t be about money. If we want to attract dirty and bloody money why not legalize prostitution or bring back the gladiators?...
...Proponents say it’s going on here already so we need to regulate it to make it safe. Meth use is going on here too, should we regulate Meth labs? South Dakota has no business spending any time or money legitimizing cage fighting. I don’t care that “other states are doing it.” I’d like to think we are better. Other states run billion dollar deficits and we balance our budget. Maybe with our fiscal sense, we could also be known for our common sense and decency [Hickey, 2013.02.23].
Rep. Hickey does us the favor of showing us the full hoghouse amendment to SB 84 that he plans to offer Monday. (Wow: all legislators should be so courteous to the public!) Along with banning mixed martial arts statewide, Rep. Hickey's amendment restores the Governor's full authority over the boxing commission that the Legislature is trying to take away. Rep. Hickey is playing to Governor Daugaard because our exec seems to share the Rev's attitude toward mixed martial arts:
Daugaard opposes such a fight commission, believing it “legitimizes a violent and dangerous activity. He, following the decision of his predecessor Gov. Mike Rounds, declined to appoint members of a previous commission created in 2009. Daugaard cited concerns about legitimating the activity and about cost.
...“I’m offended that the state would legitimize cage-fighting and the bloody violence that those kinds of spectacles create,” he said. “I think it’s interesting that we declare that it is a crime for one human being to strike another, and yet the state now proceeds to legitimize, and label a sport, cage-fighting” [David Montgomery, "Daugaard, 'Angry' Legislators Clash over Fight Commission," Political Smokeout, 2013.01.25].
The Hickey amendment to SB 84 makes clear that municipal governments retain the right to impose further restrictions, like banning boxing. But it asserts the state's right to trump local control in the interest of protecting the public from dangerous activities that offend moral sensibilities... which sounds an awful lot like the argument I've given Rep. Hickey for rejecting local control as a justification for guns in schools.
I appreciate Rep. Rev. Hickey's willingness to stake out a position against the "economic development über alles" mindset that seems to excuse too much bad policy in Pierre. I even more deeply appreciate that Hickey makes his argument in completely secular terms. He leaves off the Rev and makes his argument entirely as the Rep, in a way that any citizen, Christian or otherwise, can access.
Rep. Hickey and colleagues enter the cage of House Commerce and Energy Monday morning, Feb. 25, at 10:00 a.m. CST. Catch your lawmakers at the crackerbarrels this weekend, and see what they think of a statewide ban on mixed martial arts.
Update 13:30 MST: That Sioux Falls paper gets video of Rep. Rev. Hickey making his case against mixed martial arts at this morning's Sioux Falls crackerbarrel: