MMA Journalists Association Tells Members “Not To Sign” UFC Non-Disparagement Contract

Update May 20, 2020 – today the MMAJA released a further statement shedding light on the fact that the UFC has apparently modified their non-disparagement contracts with media but the revised language is still too restrictive for the MMAJA’s liking.  Below is their updated statement:

The officers of the MMA Journalists Association are aware of an update to the agreement that the UFC has asked media members to sign in order to cover live events in person. While we are encouraged by the UFC’s willingness to adjust the wording of the agreement in response to concerns brought by the MMAJA and others, we still cannot advise members to sign this agreement, which we still regard as unnecessarily restrictive.

For any further questions or concerns, please feel free to reach out to the MMAJA officers individually or collectively.

Sincerely,

Ben Fowlkes, president
Ariel Helwani, vice president
Marc Raimondi, treasurer
Josh Gross, secretary
Jeff Wagenheim, at-large officer
Dave Doyle, at-large officer

__________________________________________________________

A showdown is underway between MMA Journalists and the UFC.

Last week controversy broke out with the revelation that fighters and media alike at UFC 249 were asked to sign a contract which included a provision that “the Participant will not suggest or communicate to any person or entity that the Activities have been or will be held without appropriate health, safety or other precautions, whether relating to COVID-19 or otherwise”

Today several ringside physicians spoke out about such a clause and the negative impact it could have surrounding gathering “data necessary for epidemiologists, ringside physicians, lawmakers and Commissions to improve their event planning for all contact sports and make them safer in the future.”

Now the MMA Journalists Association sent members the below email being equally critical of such a clause when it comes to media integrity and outright telling members not to sign it “even if means foregoing in-person coverage of these UFC events“:

Dear MMAJA members,

The officers of the MMA Journalists Association are aware of a waiver that media members have been asked to sign when attending UFC events amid the COVID-19 pandemic. It is our opinion that this document is overly broad and overreaching in its scope, and may interfere with the ability of media members to do their jobs fully and effectively. We are advising members not to sign this document, even if it means foregoing in-person coverage of these UFC events.

We realize that this may put some MMAJA members in a difficult position, especially if they have been asked by their employers to attend and provide coverage of these events. To a point, we understand the UFC’s desire to take measures to protect itself legally and limit its own potential for liability during this uncertain time. We also understand the UFC’s desire to subject everyone who may come into contact with fighters or staff to COVID-19 testing and other reasonable safety measures.

But it is our belief that some of the restrictive language in the UFC’s agreement could have a chilling effect on journalists, possibly limiting their ability to fully and accurately report the facts. This is something we cannot support.

MMAJA officers reached out to the UFC to discuss the matter, but received no response. We also consulted with The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press (rcfp.org), which offers pro bono legal representation and other resources to “protect First Amendment freedoms and newsgathering rights of journalists.” RCFP legal fellow William Powell’s interpretation of the UFC participation agreement that MMAJA members and other credentialed media were asked to sign was that it was legally questionable and potentially ethically problematic. Going forward, RCFP offered consultation for MMAJA members, and would provide contact for a media attorney in Nevada if any of our members want to discuss challenging the agreement on public policy grounds.

We encourage members to reach out to us if they have any questions or concerns about our position. We offer our full and collective support to any MMAJA members who may be facing pressure to sign this document, or consequences stemming from their refusal to do so. Again, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us either individually or collectively with any issues or questions that may arise.

Sincerely,

Ben Fowlkes, president

Ariel Helwani, vice president

Josh Gross, secretary

Marc Raimondi, treasurer

Dave Doyle, at-large officer

Jeff Wagenheim, at-large officer


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