ESPN Gave UFC’s Dana White a Go on Home Violence

When the pinnacle of a significant sports activities group is caught on video slapping his spouse a number of occasions, his profession ought to be in jeopardy. However apart from a couple of days of remarkably delicate criticism, Final Combating Championship President Dana White seems to be avoiding any actual skilled penalties.

Final week, TMZ released a video that exhibits White in a heated argument together with his spouse, Anne, at a nightclub in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, on New Yr’s Eve. Within the video, White approaches his visibly distraught spouse, who strikes him within the face. White then retaliates by slapping her twice, and the 2 briefly tussle earlier than she storms away.

White subsequently expressed embarrassment whereas additionally downplaying the significance of the incident. “Persons are going to have opinions on this, and most of their opinions could be proper,” White instructed the celebrity-news web site. “You don’t put your fingers on a lady—ever. My spouse and I clearly love one another. We’ve been collectively for a really very long time. We’ve identified one another since we had been little or no, and this was simply a type of unlucky conditions.” White’s spouse additionally launched a press release to TMZ blaming alcohol for the rationale their confrontation turned bodily. “Sadly, we had been each consuming an excessive amount of on New Yr’s Eve and issues received uncontrolled, on each side,” she mentioned.

There are many examples of athletes and different sports activities figures dealing with some repercussions when credibly accused of home violence: intense public scrutiny, suspension, loss of income or, in excessive circumstances, their employment.

However curiously, because the video’s launch, White has not been topic to an avalanche of media protection or nonstop discussions about whether or not he ought to be fired, fined, or in any other case. His habits hasn’t been condemned by UFC’s father or mother firm, Endeavor, or UFC’s greatest tv companion, ESPN, which reached a five-year, $1.5 billion broadcast-rights deal in 2018 to air mixed-martial-arts occasions after which, in 2019, prolonged the association to make ESPN the sport’s exclusive pay-per-view provider.

These main stakeholders within the UFC are finest positioned to carry White accountable, however they don’t appear significantly motivated to become involved. Endeavor isn’t commenting, and neither is ESPN. The truth is, after I requested remark, a spokesperson declined to elaborate on community officers’ protection selections and as a substitute emailed me a number of clips showcasing ESPN’s information protection of White throughout the community’s digital, tv, radio, and podcasting platforms.

The problem isn’t that ESPN has ignored White’s state of affairs fully. It’s simply that the protection of the incident has general been fairly gentle. Having labored at ESPN for 12 years, I do know intimately the distinction between cursory protection and a nonstop nationwide dialog fueled by the large sports-media machine. The latest instance of the latter is the Brooklyn Nets star Kyrie Irving, who grew to become a every day fixture in ESPN’s information protection and commentary after he was suspended for posting a hyperlink on his social media to an anti-Semitic movie. (Full disclosure: I left the community a number of years in the past amid a dispute with its prime administration—a matter that I and others have written about extensively.)

The ESPN author and editor Jeff Wagenheim basically confirmed my statement that the community is deliberately going straightforward on White. Wagenheim tweeted, “We’ve been instructed to not write something incendiary on social media concerning the Dana White state of affairs, and I perceive why and have abided by that. I simply ask y’all to grasp that a few of us at ESPN do not need as gentle a take as this on home violence.”

Wagenheim backpedaled barely in a follow-up tweet however didn’t fully retreat from his unique level. “Clarification: There was no edict from ESPN bosses relating to the White state of affairs,” Wagenheim wrote, “however typically we’re strongly discouraged from incendiary posts on social media, and with a enterprise companion issues are delicate. My dangerous on the wording. (The thought that follows nonetheless stands.)”

Given ESPN’s enormous monetary stake in UFC’s success, Wagenheim’s revelation is hardly stunning. As a result of ESPN is a enterprise companion of just about each main sports activities league within the nation—the NFL, the NBA, school sports activities, {and professional} soccer, amongst others—the community’s journalists face a troublesome balancing act when main gamers of these leagues behave inappropriately.

However enterprise ties aren’t the one relationships which have compromised ESPN’s protection of White. On Wednesday, the ESPN hosts Molly Qerim and Stephen A. Smith discussed White on First Take, one of many community’s hottest and outstanding sports-debate exhibits. Qerim and Smith had been particularly gracious to White, whom they each admitted they’re pleasant with.

“I simply want the perfect for him and his household,” Smith mentioned. “He is aware of how fallacious he was to do that. He is aware of that we’re on this. He knew forward of time, as a result of I reached out to him to let him know I’d be speaking about this this morning. He is aware of that he crossed a line that he has by no means crossed earlier than and that he swears he won’t ever cross once more. And he’s extremely ashamed of himself. That’s simply the place we’re proper now.”

Qerim added, “By way of it being an remoted incident, I’ve identified Dana since I used to be 22. I’ve the utmost respect for him. I don’t choose individuals by their worst second.”

To be honest, Smith and Qerim each acknowledged their private relationship with White, and each agreed that he ought to be punished. However how may a viewer not ponder whether their dialog about White would have been as nuanced and delicate if it had been about somebody they didn’t know? Neither acknowledged that in 2011, White’s personal mom accused him of treating women poorly.

In lots of analogous conditions, athletes—particularly Black athletes—haven’t been provided the identical grace and assist that White is receiving. (The UFC president is white.) They often face harsher responses. The Baltimore Ravens working again Ray Rice never played in the NFL again after TMZ launched video of him knocking out his then-fiancée in an elevator in 2014. Like White, Rice insisted that he had by no means hit his fiancée previous to that night time and that alcohol was a significant factor, however hardly anybody was prepared to offer him the good thing about the doubt or reserve judgment. The truth is, on the time, White chimed in on Rice’s state of affairs. “There’s one factor that you simply by no means bounce again from and that’s placing your fingers on a lady,” White instructed Fox Sports Live in 2014. “Been that manner within the UFC since we began right here. You don’t bounce again from placing your fingers on a lady.”

White hasn’t precisely adhered to a zero-tolerance coverage in his personal group. He had no downside signing the former NFL player Greg Hardy, who had been convicted on a number of counts of home violence. (The sentence was overturned and the fees had been expunged from his file as a result of his ex-girlfriend failed to seem in court docket throughout his attraction.) UFC ultimately let Hardy’s contract expire, however White’s stance on home violence clearly comes with some wiggle room.

Clearly, UFC isn’t almost as common because the NFL and due to this fact doesn’t obtain the identical stage of media consideration.  Blended martial arts additionally stays barely exterior the circle of the main mainstream sports activities, and a part of the attraction for a lot of followers is that the game is extra freewheeling than different main sports activities entities. However White is the face of UFC and one of the recognizable names in sports activities. He has sought to make his sport a mainstream staple, and with that comes a excessive stage of duty. I can’t think about the commissioner of every other outstanding sports activities group being in White’s place and never dealing with official punishment.

The dearth of shock and the apparent double normal haven’t gone unnoticed amongst Black entertainers. The actor and comic D. L. Hughley posted on his Instagram page:

If that had been a brotha, it’d be NONSTOP protection, dredging up a playground struggle from the third grade, scouring outdated tweets, you title it. #DanaWhite’s ENTIRE LIFE is immersed in brutal, bodily violence, he’s amassed a fortune from it. The place are the salacious headlines?? The place’s the stress?? Ohhhhh, he apologized🙄 #WhitePrivilege (PUN INTENDED) scores a 1st spherical knockout but once more.

Within the feedback part, the actor Jamie Foxx remarked: “Fucking preach!!!!”

Some commentators have even gone as far as to attempt to justify White’s response by making the disgraceful argument that the manager’s spouse hit him first. By no means thoughts that he’s larger and stronger than she is. The UFC light-heavyweight title contender Jamahal Hill tweeted, “Should you don’t need to get hit don’t hit no person interval!!!” On his podcast, the UFC bantamweight contender Sean O’Malley additionally defended White. “I really feel dangerous for Dana,” O’Malley mentioned. “His spouse slapped him. That’s impolite. And it deserves a slapping again. I don’t know. I don’t know. It’s a tough one. I don’t know, deal with individuals the way you need to be handled.”

The overall dismissal of violence towards ladies is a contributing issue to White being seen so sympathetically. Sadly, the worst consequence he faces as of now’s a canceled tv present. White’s TBS actuality sequence, Energy Slap: Street to the Title, was imagined to premiere on Wednesday, however the network has rescheduled it to January 18. I’ll be shocked if the community goes via with a present that’s primarily based on aggressive open-hand hitting and has White’s title hooked up.

The grand irony of all of that is that White doesn’t truly appear keen to just accept the graciousness that others are so prepared to offer him. “You’ve heard me say for years, ‘There’s by no means ever an excuse for a man to place his fingers on a lady,’” White mentioned, “and now right here I’m on TMZ speaking about it.”

White isn’t providing any excuses, so why is nearly everybody else doing it?

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