Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, widely credited as the biggest roadblock to getting sanctioned MMA into New York, was arrested today on corruption charges. The charges stem from a federal investigation into his finances, and though an arrest alone doesn’t mean Speaker Silver is out of a job, he would be forced to leave his post if convicted of a felony – or he could be pressured into resigning. Either way, the status quo that has kept New York’s ban on professional MMA in place since 1997 has suddenly dramatically.
Here’s the New York Times with the news:
The powerful speaker of the New York State Assembly, Sheldon Silver, was arrested on federal corruption charges on Thursday and accused of using the power of his office to solicit millions in bribes and kickbacks, according to court documents.
The arrest of Mr. Silver, a Democrat from the Lower East Side of Manhattan who has served as speaker for more than two decades, sent shock waves through the political establishment and upended the new legislative session.
Mr. Silver surrendered to Federal Bureau of Investigation agents early Thursday morning in Lower Manhattan, law enforcement officials said.
Mr. Silver, before entering 26 Federal Plaza, said, “I hope I’ll be vindicated.”
It’s worth noting that every year for the past few years the State Senate has passed their version of a bill that would allow for sanctioned MMA, but the concurrent bill in the Assembly has consistently died due to lack of support within a closed-door Democratic conference convened by Speaker Silver (where all pending issues are informally discussed). However, that doesn’t mean that Speaker Silver harbored any particular bias against the sport. It just means that one of the procedural mechanisms he has in place proved too insurmountable an obstacle for MMA to overcome. Therefore, while replacing Speaker Silver could invoke some much needed change, there’s no indication that whoever assumes the post will discontinue the practice of holding Democratic conferences.
As for who might replace Speaker Silver should he step down, there are more than a few names being tossed about, with some of them having proven to be supporters of MMA bills in the past.
So is this good news for those of us who want to see the UFC at Madison Square Garden? Yes. But it doesn’t mean anything other than things are changing.
Thankfully, a change in New York can do some good.