With MMA’s ever growing popularity comes a greater need to comply with legislative requirements. This is clearly in the long term interests of the sport and will help accelerate mainstream acceptance. With this in mind Mark Pavelich, the outspoken CEO of Canada’s longest running Mixed Martial Arts organization (the MFC), voiced recent comments worthy of scrutiny.
In an interview given earlier this week Mark reiterated his long held views that woman’s MMA has no place in his organization.
Mark is quoted as saying “And don’t forget too, I’ve always said ‘I’m never going to put female MMA in my organization.’…I personally will never have it. And it’s no disrespect to female MMA fighters, because I do have an overabundance of respect for them”
His reason for this policy? “it’s my only personal issue that I just don’t like to see females hitting each other. I really don’t, it’s maybe something weird in my brain, but I just don’t like the visual of that happening.”
Now, we are all entitled to our views and not everyone is a fan of MMA or WMMA. That said, can an Alberta fighting organization take such a stance? Likely not given Section 7 of the Alberta Human Rights Act which stipulates that:
7(1) No employer shall
(a) refuse to employ or refuse to continue to employ any
person…because of gender
But can’t it be argued that the MFC is not an employer but instead an organization which obtains the services of independent contractors? Probably not given the “broad, liberal and purposive interpretation” that Canadian Courts give to Human Rights legislation. The Alberta Human Rights Commission provides the following expansive summary of “employment” situations in the Human Rights context:
Alberta courts have considered the definition of employment in human rights legislation in a number of cases including those cited below.1 In Cormier, the court defined an employment relationship as “any contract in which one person agrees to execute any work or labour for another.” In Bugis, the court stated that to employ is “to utilize.” Under human rights law, courts and human rights tribunals have found employment relationships in situations which are broader than conventional ideas of what is “employment.” Independent contractors, subcontractors, taxi drivers, army cadets and volunteers have all been found to be in employment relationships under human rights legislation and therefore protected against discrimination.
MMA and Woman’s MMA have been growing at an unprecedented pace with greater mainstream acceptance by the day. MMA organizations hosting events in Canada would do well to stay with the times and the ever clearer defined boundaries regulating this sport. As the UFC has demonstrated over the past 20 years, embracing legislation and regulation are not only good for the growth of the sport, WMMA is as well.
Update May 5, 2013
The above post was republished, with my permission at Top MMA News. As always, access to this wider audience generated a number of comments which prompted me to further add to the discussion. I reprint my additional comments below. If you are interested in this topic please feel free to visit the article there and weigh in on the topic.
Some interesting comments were also made on Twitter with Big John McCarthy and Showdown Joe Ferraro adding the following thoughts to this debate –
Thanks everyone for your comments. I appreciate the dialogue.
One point worth noting is most major leagues such as the NHL and NFL do not have ‘no woman allowed’ policies. If a female athlete could make the cut based on merit there is no internal barrier to participation.
Some valid points raised relate to issues other than gender justifying an organizations exclusion of WMMA. This is fair enough. If there is no market demand for the sport or if there is not sufficient depth in the sport for an organization to field a WMMA event that is one thing. It is quite another to justify the exclusion for the voiced reason of “I’m never going to put female MMA in my organization.’
Like it or not Human Rights Tribunals have a very far reach in Canada. Their reach is so far that they can even override freedom of speech if it is found to be discriminatory as recently held by the Supreme Court of Canada.http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/national/supreme-court-ruling-upholds-limits-on-free-speech-in-case-involving-anti-gay-proselytizer/article9104862/
Given this reality it is important to appreciate that there is nothing unique about MMA that would exclude it from the jurisdiction of Human Rights legislation. Consider it this way – imagine an employer or a person who retains contractors stating that “I will never hire females for my (fill in the blank, plumbing, contracting, etc) company”. With the reason being that “its my only personal issue that I just don’t like to see females (doing this kind of work)” You would quickly have an employer in hot water.
I also appreciate the comments that MMA organizations deal with contractors, not employees. However, as discussed above, Human Rights Tribunals don’t use this as a barrier to their reach. Like it or not this is a real legal issues organizations in Canada can face.
Accepting this, the question is what can be done. I suggest that organizations keep an open mind to including WMMA when the business model can support this expansion instead of having a closed door policy to the issue.
Many on this forum will remember the rough road to acceptance that MMA has faced over the past 20 years. It’s a shame if many of the same individuals who paved the path for MMAs’s growth and public acceptance put up barriers for the growth of WMMA.