The mixed martial arts community went on the defensive on Sunday night after actress Meryl Streep took a jab at the sport.
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Streep, who received the prestigious Cecil B. DeMille Award for lifetime achievement during the 2017 Golden Globes, used her acceptance speech to levy heavy criticism at President-elect Donald Trump. While admonishing Trump’s attitude toward immigrants, Streep implied that mixed martial arts organizations are not inclusive of people born outside the United States.
“Hollywood is crawling with outsiders and foreigners,” Streep said. “If we kick them all out, you’ll have nothing to watch but football and mixed martial arts, which are not the arts.”
Proponents of mixed martial arts accused Streep of hypocrisy, given the subject matter of her speech, which called on Americans to rise above intolerance. Critics cited the diversity of Ultimate Fighting Championship’s titleholders – several of whom, including featherweight champion Jose Aldo, lightweight champion Conor McGregor and women’s bantamweight champion Amanda Nunes, have roots outside the country. MMA superstar Ronda Rousey has Venezuelan roots.
Hollywood has also drawn criticism for a lack of diversity in feature films in recent years. At the Golden Globes, just 10 of 30 actors nominated for individual acting awards were either minorities or internationally-born, Uproxx noted. In 2016, a lack of diversity at the Academy Awards generated a massive backlash on social media and jumpstarted the “#OscarsSoWhite” social media campaign.
Scott Coker, a fight promoter and president of the Bellator MMA organization, penned an open letter to Streep, inviting the 67-year-old actress to attend the organization’s next major event on January 21.
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“The global sport of mixed martial arts celebrates male and female athletes from all around the world who work years tirelessly honing their craft – and yes, art,” Coker wrote. “They come from every country and every walk of life. We at Bellator support them and honor their skill.”
UFC representatives did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Streep’s speech.
Several active MMA fighters and analysts took to Twitter to voice their opinions on Streep’s comments. A roundup of their posts can be found below.
Really weird to see someone talk about not discriminating then basically discriminate against an entire group of skilled, hard working ppl.— Megan Olivi (@MeganOlivi) January 9, 2017
Or you're a pro mma fighter that can't stand her or her liberal ways. Basically if you don't agree with her opinions then you're bad person https://t.co/5VI7ZyAPlN— James Vick (@JamesVickMMA) January 9, 2017
Disagree about the arts but otherwise a lovely speech... https://t.co/wYNEJ4WqTF— Zachary Makovsky (@ZachFunSize) January 9, 2017