What Every Governor Should Know
While boxing was having its cold-war conferences from Paris hotel rooms to New York grand-jury rooms, a governor was getting his own first look at the inside of this battle-weary sport. Alarmed because hoodlums had threatened a Los Angeles fight promoter, and may or may not have beaten him up, California's Governor Edmund G. Brown asked his attorney general a question that has troubled many another American sports fan. "What," the governor might have informally put it, "is going on with boxing?"
California Attorney General Stanley Mosk has now sent Governor Brown part of the answer—a 16-page report short on investigative detail but beefed up with some outspoken recommendations. Leaving the case of Promoter Jackie Leonard to the FBI and the federal grand jury now investigating it, the Mosk report looked directly into the operation of the California State Athletic Commission. Considered one of the best such commissions in the country, this California agency was still subjected to criticism by the attorney general, and on grounds which the governors of other states can well consider.
The California commission is, like all such commissions, faced with two conflicting tasks. On the one hand it is a revenue-collecting agency receiving a percentage of each boxing and wrestling admission ticket sold, and on the other hand it is a regulatory agency, charged with enforcement of the state's athletic laws. The admission taxes are used to operate the commission. If the commission sanctions no major fights there are few admissions; therefore scant salary money. Thus, it is in the financial interests of the commission to let nothing stand in the way of big fights in California, and yet these are the very fights which the commission should scrutinize the hardest because they are the most tempting to hoodlums. Boxing figures are well aware of the financial situation of the commission and use it to ignore state laws when they feel the commission wouldn't dare clamp down and prevent a major fight, the Mosk report states.
The report also took a broadside whack at television—"The television impresarios have not demonstrated any great degree of reluctance to deal with criminal elements in the boxing business"—and urged that the commission be freed from any supervision of "that boisterous fraud called professional wrestling."
But it is in its stand on financing that the Mosk report comes closest to the critical issue involved in boxing supervision by state commissions. Even a government agency cannot be expected to bite the hand that pays it. To avoid losing revenue, it may turn its back on violations of the very laws it is charged with enforcing. That, in short, is the story the Mosk report gave Governor Brown. The solution, the report said, is to let the athletic commission draw on general state funds to make up any shortage left after admission taxes are collected. But this would appear only half an answer, for as long as boxing was still a major source of financial support the commission would not have a free hand.
By taking the next step, and having athletic commissions draw all money from state general funds, the financial dependency of the agency would end, and enforcement of state boxing laws could begin.
Failure to take such action could end with adoption of another recommendation of the Mosk report—federal boxing legislation. Would such legislation, or even formation of a federal boxing commission, be advisable? Possibly so, if state athletic commissions continue to close their eyes to blatant violations of the laws they are supposed to enforce.
Governor Brown is to be praised for his demand for a boxing investigation in his own state. His curiosity might well be followed by chief executives in other states. Then they, like Governor Brown, would begin to find out what is going on.