Dear Mr. [Eric] Shanks (Co-president, FOX Sports Media Group):
We are writing to alert you about two UFC fighters who are scheduled to compete on the "UFC on FOX 5" event on December 8th at the KeyArena in Seattle. Attached you will find the Trial Information in the pending criminal case involving one UFC fighter, and two guilty pleas entered into by the other UFC fighter.
Jeremy Dean Stephens, a professional cage fighter who competes under the nickname "Lil’ Heathen," has been charged with Willful Injury Causing Serious Injury (Class C felony), Burglary in the First Degree (Class B felony), and Assault Causing Bodily Injury (Serious Misdemeanor). A trial in the case is
currently schedule for January 9, 2013.
Abel Nazario Trujillo, another cage fighter scheduled to compete on the UFC fight card on Dec. 8th in Seattle, has twice pleaded guilty to Domestic Abuse Assault Causing Bodily Injury, an aggravated misdemeanor. In both cases, the victim was identified as the mother of his child. In May 2007, Trujillo
also pleaded guilty to Obstruction of an Emergency Communication. In the plea agreement, Trujillo acknowledged that the crime required the State to prove that his alleged assault victim was making a 911 call, Trujillo knew that she was making a 911 call, and Trujillo hung up the phone. Trujillo competes
under the nickname "Killa."
These criminal cases raise serious questions about FOX’s programming judgment. At minimum, FOX and the UFC should wait for the resolution of an upcoming jury trial related to the allegations against Stephens before allowing Stephens to fight on FOX. The trial is scheduled for January 9th in Iowa.
Stephens was arrested on October 5th in Minneapolis on an Iowa warrant, just hours before his previously scheduled fight on UFC.
One of the victims of the alleged assault is identified as a Staff Sergeant in the U.S. Army who has dedicated his career to military service and has been deployed overseas multiple times, according to a 2010 article. This should be of concern to FOX, given that fans of cage fighting events and regular
viewers of FOX likely include military veterans and active-duty soldiers who, along with their families, have paid a great sacrifice to our country.
The UFC already has a troubled relationship with some leaders in the veterans’ community and advocates for survivors of sexual assault, who believe the cage fighting organization has not done enough to prevent socially irresponsible speech among its fighters. UFC fighters have made jokes about rape, homophobic slurs and sexually explicit remarks that are demeaning towards women.
In a disturbing video published in April 2012 on YouTube, UFC fighter Quinton "Rampage" Jackson pretends to sexually assault a woman in a parking garage using chloroform and zip ties. Jackson is scheduled to fight on the "UFC on FOX 6" event on Jan. 26th in Chicago. At a public press conference in December 2011, UFC fighter Rashad Evans taunted his opponent by threatening to act like former Pennsylvania State University assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky, who at the time faced more than 50 counts of sexual misconduct involving young boys. In other cases, UFC fighters have made light of rape on their Twitter accounts.
You can find more incidents of offensive behavior among people associated with the UFC at the following website: www.UnfitForChildren.org
As reported by FOX News, this summer more than 10,000 people nationwide signed a petition calling on the U.S. Marine Corps to renounce its support of the UFC and to refrain from using taxpayer money to sponsor the organization. A veterans committee of UNITE HERE delivered these petitions to the Commandant of the Marine Corps, General James Amos; to Marine Corps recruiting stations in 10 cities; to Representative Howard "Buck" McKeon, chairman of the House Armed Services Committee; and to
the Defense Department Advisory Committee on Women in the Services (DACOWITS).
Leaders of more than a dozen state and national organizations that advocate on behalf of veterans and/or survivors of sexual assault have called on the military to sever ties with the UFC. These groups include the National Center on Domestic and Sexual Violence, National Institute of Military Justice, Protect Our Defenders, Women in the Military Project, Veterans For Peace, Veterans For Common Sense, Veterans United for Truth, and the Veterans Committee of UNITE HERE, among others.
The UFC was no doubt aware of the criminal charges against Jeremy Stephens at the time in which it announced on November 23rd that Stephens would fight on Dec. 8th on FOX. The alleged assault was widely publicized in the national news media. FOX Sports, ESPN, New York Post and USA Today,
among other media outlets, reported details of the arrest and an unsuccessful effort by the UFC to get Stephens out of jail on bail in time for a UFC fight in Minneapolis on October 5th.
Stephens’ management agency, Evolution Agent, released a statement denying that Stephens was involved in the alleged assault. According to the statement, Stephens attended a party in Des Moines in which a physical altercation occurred, and Stephens’ "name came up during the police investigation of the assault."
Less than 48 hours after Stephens’ arrest in Minneapolis on Oct. 5th, UFC President Dana White was quoted in USA Today and the New York Post as saying he believed Stephens’ assertion that he was innocent. "I’m taking [Stephens’] word for it," White was quoted as saying. "Man to man, that’s what he says, and I’m going to take his word for it. I believe him." White was also quoted as saying he was willing to pay an "astronomical amount of money" to bail Stephens out of jail in time for the Oct. 5 th UFC fight in Minneapolis.
White’s rush to support Stephens following his arrest was criticized by some in the media. Josh Gross of ESPN wrote, "[White] can’t know the truth about Stephens, yet he pushed and pushed to get him out on bond so he could fight in a cage the same night? Think about the optics, which probably has more to do with public relations but also delves into real-world business. Where’s the benefit to the UFC?"
There are other professional cage fighters with better fight records. As noted on UFC.com, Stephens has lost three of his last five contests in the UFC. Why isn’t a different cage fighter scheduled to fight on December 8th on FOX?
In light of the concerns cited above, we strongly encourage FOX to wait for the resolution of the jury trial in Iowa related to the alleged assault before allowing Stephens to fight on your network.
Culinary Workers Union, Local 226