A big part of the lionizing of Zuffa’s success with the UFC is how hard the promotion had to fight to gain acceptance and legal footing in the United States. Tales, especially of John McCain’s campaign against no holds barred competitions—or “human cockfighting,” as he famously dubbed it—still form the centerpiece of any story about the MMA promotion’s rise to become the multi-billion dollar organization that it is today.
Maybe then, this is part of the future narrative on Power Slap’s rise to glory? Or maybe it’s just another nail in the coffin for what continues to look less and less like a legitimate sporting endeavor, and more like an exploitative cash grab that hands out brain trauma for cents on the dollar.
In a post to his Twitter account, Bill Pascrell, Jr.—a US Congressman representing New Jersey’s Ninth Distric—published an open letter to Warner Bros. CEO David Zaslav. In the letter Pascrell issued a scathing review of Dana White’s Power Slap league, noting that it “capitalizes on violent behavior and lurid drama masquerading as athletic prowess for profit.”
Here’s our letter demanding answers from @warnerbros @TBSNetwork on their violent new TV show glorifying traumatic brain injury risks. pic.twitter.com/MV4rruLv6a— Bill Pascrell, Jr. (@BillPascrell) February 15, 2023
Along with issuing a request that Warner & their subsidiary TBS “reconsider broadcasting this problematic programming,” Pascrell also asked for answers to the following questions:
- Does your program run a disclaimer at the beginning and end of each episode of The Power Slap detailing the impacts of concussions, repeated head trauma, and Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy?
- Do participants have access to comprehensive, long-term, and free brain monitoring programs, including a designated fund to cover related health care costs? This should include baseline testing to include vision, hearing, an overall health assessment and a magnetic resonance imaging scan. If so, are they compensated for these expenses? If not, please explain.
- Please detail how the show informs all participants, in writing, about the dangers of concussions and repetitive brian injury including how their participation in The Power Slap events exposes them to possible long-term effects that may not be evident for many years.
Not being a member of Power Slap production staff, I can’t speak to that third question, but a quick browse of Power Slap episodes shows an intro disclaimer that reads: “The Following program features activities that are dangerous and/or may expose participants to the risk of serious injury. Do not attempt to recreate or re-enact these activities. Viewer discretion is advised.”
It’s certainly not the detailed clarification on the “impacts of concussions” that the congressman asked for, but at least it’s something.
As for question 2, knowing enough about how the UFC has done business over the years, I think we can pretty safely say that long term medical care isn’t front and center on the list of Power Slap priorities.
Pascrell’s letter was co-authored by Nebraska Congressman Don Bacon. Pascrell has been a champion of establishing brain-health legislation and protections in pro sports over his more than 25-years stint as a US Congressman, including the creation of the Congressional Brain Injury Task force and the NFLPA endorsed Concussion Treatment and Cares Tools Act, that helped bring more uniform concussion protocols for middle & highschool athletes.
Whether Pascrell and Bacon can exert enough pressure on Warner Bros. & Co. to create any significant changes to the future plans for Power Slap remains to be seen. For the moment, however, those hoping that the spectacle’s days are numbered will have to satisfy themselves with knowing that the ratings continue to be piss poor.