Military Sports Sponsorships Live To Fight Another Day

Updated: August 2, 2012

 BY RU Guest Blogger – Jeff Ousley

Just as you would expect in a NASCAR race, the House of Representatives’ vote on military sponsorships came down to a photo finish, with a vote of 216 to 202 in favor of preserving military sponsorships.

The amendment would have cut the US military’s $72 million budget that is used to sponsor Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC), professional bass fishing and NASCAR, among other professional racing circuits.

Two weeks before the vote, the US Army pulled its sponsorship from Ryan Newman’s number 39 Chevrolet for the 2013 NASCAR season, stating that the Army’s target demographic was declining, and only 5 percent of NASCAR’s 77 million fans. While the media speculated that it was due to the House’s upcoming vote, Army officials declined the rumors, stating that it was so they could put their motorsports budget to better use in younger circuits that cost less to participate in, such as the National Hot Rod Association (NHRA).

Moving from the track to the ring, the UFC has found itself against a new opponent – Unite Here Union. To make matters even more complex, the branch of Unite Here that is opposing the UFC is none other than veterans and former marines. These veterans have taken issue with the UFC’s sexist and homophobic culture shown during interviews, fights and on the popular show The Ultimate Fighter.

While there is no denying the fact that inappropriate behavior can be found in the UFC, is this pressure to pull the Marine’s $2 million a year sponsorship a legitimate concern or is it a mere ploy by the union to get back at Frank and Lorenzo Fertitta, casino owners and co-owners of the UFC? For the past decade, Unite Here has spent its time attempting to unionize Las Vegas’ Station Casinos, owned by none other than Frank and Lorenzo Fertitta, and have not delivered any results.

Even with this story just recently breaking, the fight to ban the UFC has been going on for quite some time. Just last January, Deborah Tucker, the Executive Director for the National Center on Domestic and Sexual Violence (NCDSV) wrote to the state of New York, asking them to uphold their ban on cage fighting. In the email, Tucker provided a lengthy list of occurrences that were seen as racial or homophobic slurs.

In the past weeks, Unite Here has accrued over 5,000 signatures from veterans, civilians and advocates of sexual discrimination through a petition that has been distributed across the nation. The group has even sent petitions to multiple Marine recruiting stations with the request that Marines renounce their support in the UFC immediately.

The UFC holds a strong military following and even has the likes of Veterans United’s sponsored fighter and former Marine Corps Captain, Brian Stann, as well as Ranger Up sponsored Special Forces Staff Sergeant Tim Kennedy.

The US military sees this as a great platform for putting their name in front of America’s youth. Kelly Crigger, a retired Army Lieutenant Colonel, MMA publicist and NY Times Best Selling Author, was quoted saying, “Many of those viewers are eligible recruits, the UFC provides a great venue to get the Army name into the mind of millions of young Americans.”

While this debate is sure to continue for quite some time, it is good to see the UFC take action by providing extensive training to make sure what athletes know what is acceptable on national television. Included in routine fighter training summits, professional athletes are given sensitivity training from specialists as well as president of the UFC, Dana White.

The most worrisome part of the whole debate is the fact that the House vote did land at 216 to 202, which is closer than is has ever been. Two similar bills went through the house last year and fell in favor of sponsorships with outcomes of 281 to 148 and 260 to 167. The progression shows that the military does need to look into alternate forms of advertising to reach America’s youth in the event that they are not able to target the viewership of motorsports or the UFC.


Guest Post provided by Jeff Ousley. Jeff, a student-veteran attending college on the G.I. Bill, is a featured writer at the Veterans United Network, a unique collection of blogs and social media feeds that caters to the unique interests and needs of the military community, veterans and their families.




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