The statute requires the procurement of a license from the New York State Athletic Commission to stage a "combative sports" event. The statute gives the Commission "sole discretion, management, control and jurisdiction over such combative sports bouts or events to be conducted, held or given within the state of New York and over all licenses to any and all persons who participate in such combative sports bouts." N.Y. Laws of 1920, ch. 912 § 5-a. 1(d), 3 and 4.
After passage of the statute, plaintiffs scheduled and made the necessary arrangements to stage an Ultimate Fighting Championship in Niagara Falls on February 7, 1997, the day after the statute's effective date. Plaintiffs sold over $ 150,000 in tickets for the live audience, and made plans to broadcast the event by cable television and satellite. In arranging the event, plaintiffs entered into contracts with the Niagara Falls Convention and Civic Center, Reiss Media Enterprises, TVN Entertainment, DirecTV, Viewers Choice, and the individual fighters. They paid for medical testing and made arrangements for lodging, referees, judges, and ringside physicians.
On January 30, 1997, the New York State Athletic Commission issued temporary rules regulating "combative sports." 19 NYCRR ch. VII, Rules of the New York State Athletic Commission (1997) ("Commission Rules"). Among other things, the rules require the ring to be at least 40 feet in diameter, Commission Rules § 209.39, fighters to wear eight ounce thumbless or thumblock gloves, Commission Rules § 209.45(i), and bouts to be conducted in three or four five-minute rounds, Commission Rules § 217.3. The rules also prohibit kicks above the shoulders, head butting, choke holds, and striking or kicking a grounded opponent. Commission Rules § 217.27.
Equitable relief requires a showing that there is no adequate remedy at law. Accordingly, issuance of a preliminary injunction is appropriate only when the party seeking such equitable relief demonstrates (a) irreparable harm and (b) either (i) a likelihood of success on the merits of the claim, or (ii) sufficiently serious questions going to the merits of the claim as to make it fair ground for litigation, and the balance of the hardships tipping decidedly in favor of the movant. Malkentzos v. DeBuono, 102 F.3d 50, 54 (1996); Woods v. Universal City Studios, 920 F. Supp. 62, 64 (S.D.N.Y. 1996).
In this case, plaintiffs are not merely seeking a prohibitory injunction, but rather a mandatory injunction that requires the New York State Athletic Commission to license them to follow their own rules, and not those of the Commission. When injunctive relief is mandatory in the sense that it will alter, rather than maintain the status quo, a heightened standard is applied. Tom Doherty Associates, Inc. v. Saban Entertainment, Inc., 60 F.3d 27, 33-34 (2d Cir. 1996); Jacobson & Co., Inc. v. Armstrong Cork Co., 548 F.2d 438, 441 (2d Cir. 1977).
For any injunction, the threshold requirement is proof of irreparable harm. Irreparable harm is injury for which money cannot compensate. Tom Doherty Associates, Inc. v. Saban Entertainment, Inc., 60 F.3d at 37. The harm that plaintiffs allege is that they will have to cancel the Ultimate Fighting Championship which they have scheduled for February 7, 1997, because compliance with the Commission's rules would radically change the nature of the event. Although plaintiffs have shown that they will lose money if they cannot hold the event in accordance with their own rules, they have not shown the substantial non-monetary injury required for a preliminary injunction.
Although plaintiffs argue that if they do not stage the championship as advertised they will lose what they describe as good will, they have not persuaded me with a fair preponderance of the credible evidence that they will be unable in the future to successfully stage other performances. Plaintiffs have been in this business somewhat more than three years. No evidence was presented that their pay-per-view customers are the same from event to event or that any of their customers will refuse to view later events produced and promoted by them.
After examining the documents and evaluating the testimony of the witnesses, I find that cancellation of the Ultimate Fighting Championship in Niagara Falls is measurable in money, and that any long-range damages to plaintiffs' reputation is purely speculative. Plaintiffs have presented no evidence that their reputation among their customers will be damaged if they decide to cancel the event scheduled for February 7 because of new and unexpected New York rules. Thus, plaintiffs have not shown that without a preliminary injunction, they will be irreparably harmed. Without such a showing, a preliminary injunction may not issue.
The foregoing shall constitute my findings of fact and conclusions of law based on the submissions of the parties and the testimony at the hearing held on February 5, 1997.
For the reasons set forth above, I deny plaintiffs' motion for a preliminary injunction.
Dated: New York, New York
February 6, 1997
MIRIAM GOLDMAN CEDARBAUM
United States District Judge
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