Despite his prominent role in preventing mixed martial arts from being legalized in New York, most of the sport’s fans probably never heard of Sheldon Silver.
Silver is the corrupt former politician who, as the speaker of the New York State Assembly, repeatedly blocked legislation that would have legalized MMA in the state. What was more galling is that the votes were there, in both the state assembly and the state senate, for many years before it finally passed after Silver was indicted and removed from his position.
It was one person, who was convicted of kickback schemes that benefitted him by millions of dollars. He was convicted in 2015, given a new trial and convicted again in 2018. He was sentenced to six years, and was due for release in 2026.
But on Tuesday, Silver was furloughed as the federal Bureau of Prisons let him out after only eight months behind bars.
The 77-year-old Silver’s actions in the MMA case were even worse because of the economic impact they had across the spectrum in the sport. The UFC led the lobbying effort to legalize MMA in the state, and spent tens of millions of dollars to do it, but it was far from just the UFC.
Virtually every promoter of any significance wanted to get the sport into New York, but were denied by Silver’s machinations.
There were fighters who were desperate to fight in the state where they lived who never got the chance. Silver’s constituents had to travel out of state to see a sport they loved and which they supported being legalized in their state.
The UFC would have had the biggest economic impact and the numbers are staggering. After UFC 205 on Nov. 12, 2016 at Madison Square Garden in New York, the UFC commissioned an economic impact analysis.
The show, which featured Conor McGregor versus Eddie Alvarez in the main event, generated $37.4 million in economic output and $18.3 million in salaries and wages.
Not every show would have been that massive, but Silver’s intransigence was costing citizens of the state, many of them in his assembly district, real money.
What makes Silver’s furlough all the more galling is that he showed no contrition for any of his acts and he was as arrogant as could be. He basically looked down his nose at MMA fans and didn’t care that he was harming an entire industry.
UFC president Dana White is no fan of Silver’s and was irate to hear of his release.
“We had to wait 10 years to get into New York because of this guy,” White said. “Not only did we get cheated because of him, but the fans got cheated, the State of New York got cheated out of millions of dollars in taxes and economic impact, and the athletes and sport got cheated by not having access to the media capital of the world.
“We're talking hundreds of millions of dollars. We lost a major blue chip sponsor because they realized we were prohibited from holding events in the state of New York. The list goes on and on. The fact that a very bad, corrupt guy like this doesn’t have to serve his prison term is disgusting.”
Given the Bureau of Prisons hasn’t made a final determination, hopefully it will get Silver vaccinated so he can go back to jail — where he so clearly belongs — and then they won’t be able to use the prevalence of COVID-19 in the prisons as an excuse to release him early.
The people of New York were harmed in many ways by his illicit actions and this is not justice. It simply makes it worse for those citizens who also happen to be MMA fans.
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