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Hickey Seeks Statewide Ban on Mixed Martial Arts

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:


  1. larry kurtz 2013.02.23

    Rev. Hickey is a bundler for his party: he's gone pro.

  2. Karl Kroger 2013.02.23

    I think Hickey does a nice job on this one as well. While there may be some benefits of additional regulations, they're not worth it. In my opinion, the industry as a whole really is a blight to values and society. Hickey's moral and commonsense values trumping unwise economic interests are appreciated. That's something I'd like to see from more Republicans.

  3. Roger Elgersma 2013.02.24

    The Christian right being for good and against bad. If this does not pass, will the Republicans have any decency or credibility, or will they just be for every man for himself with freedom to do whatever being more important than good decency. He is right and if the Republicans can not see this in this session, and need to go home and think about it for a year, then they are just sheep following someone else.

  4. mike 2013.02.24

    I get tired of Hickey being the moral authority on everything. "I'm a pastor so I know what's best." "I don't like violence. So we can't regulate it."

    He's always preaching to everyone as if he's a superior human being. I'm not impressed by the nanny state legislators like Hickey.

  5. Steve Hickey 2013.02.24

    Sorry you feel that way Mike. Do you also weary of doctors who always have opinions about medical things? I weary of pastors who don't offer moral leadership.

    I know you like the Founders so I'll give this Franklin quote : "only a virtuous people are capable of freedom. As nations become corrupt and VICIOUS, they have more need of masters."

    Masters are laws to rein in the viciousness.

  6. larry kurtz 2013.02.24

    Hick: I'm a little conflicted about your apparent false equivalency. You said something about drawing a line on smoking with cannabis, although you used a street term. Could you clarify who the 'we' is: especially in light of your lack of support for Roe v. Wade as the law of the land?

  7. caheidelberger Post author | 2013.02.24

    Mike, I'm going to stick up for Rep. Hickey here, just a little. I don't find it preachy to advocate certain public policies. I praised Hickey's initial blast specifically because he didn't overtly assert his pastoral authority.

    I make moral pronouncements here all the time; am I as offensively morally superior as the good Reverend?

    Rep. Hickey will have more explaining to do when it comes to imposing more state control over local activities. But his most sound point here is that the almighty dollar does not justify everything.

  8. Roger Elgersma 2013.02.24

    Some things are clearly enough right or wrong that a preacher and an atheist can agree. But we need freedom of speach and a non judgemental attitude to get there.

  9. mike 2013.02.24

    Probably true Corey but ever since he's been elected and reading him on the blogs and hearing him at cracker barrels just makes me want to puke.

    When he gets on his pro-life pulpit it bugs me. I am as pro-life as anyone but when someone talks about stopping cruelty to animals he starts spouting off about how people flip out over cruelty to animals but it's ok to abort children nonsense as if a person can't be opposed to both.

    Bugs the heck out of me. And he's always looking for ways for the government to tell people what they can and cannot do.

    He reminds me of a self righteous Rick Santorum type.

    Probably a good guy and I'm overreacting.

  10. mike 2013.02.24

    If athletes want to fight then let them fight. The cage is only for show and spectacle. Athletes have the right to compete.

    I don't watch MMA or UFC but I understand that many people like this type of stuff.

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