Dana White and the UFC have a close relationship with ESPN, and a former star of the network is waiting to see how it responds to White’s recent scandal.
The UFC president was caught on video getting into a physical altercation with his wife Anne at a New Year’s Eve party in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, an altercation that saw Anne slap white and culminated in White slapping Anne at least twice.
Dan LeBatard, a longtime ESPN host who parted ways with the network in 2021, spoke about the White incident on The Dan LeBatard Show with Stugotz, specifically questioning to what degree ESPN will cover the news given that it is currently a broadcasting partner of the UFC.
” I am interested in how ESPN will cover Dana White’s news and the video of White slapping his wife during New Year festivities,” LeBatard stated. He apologized, said there was no excuse and claimed that he had been drunk. It would have been Roger Goodell, or the owner of an NFL team. I can imagine that it would have been covered with great zeal, even though ESPN has become a corporate partner to the NFL.
” In this instance, Dana White, the most well-known person in this sport is not he? He’s the voice and face of the sport, making him the most popular person among all fighters. He’s probably close to being it if he isn’t. It’s not even the crime, it’s the size of the fame of the criminal. How does ESPN cover that one?”
Currently, the White story leads the “Top Headlines” of ESPN’s MMA section, though it does not appear on the ESPN front page as of this writing. The story was also covered on the Tuesday evening edition of SportsCenter.
LeBatard wonders if the story could be receiving more attention, given that video of the incident is widely available.
“Usually with these things if there is video and there is mainstream media pressure, and ESPN is the one most capable of applying mainstream media pressure — but they have an uncomfortable relationship with Dana White that ran off the one journalist that they had in that sport, Ariel Helwani, and we ran into it because Dana White has a great deal of power at ESPN,” LeBatard said. “How is that story going to be covered? How is that story supposed to be covered?”
ESPN has been a broadcasting partner of the UFC since 2018. ESPN signed a five-year deal with the promotion that was extended by two more years in 2019 as the UFC continues to provide a steady stream of live content for both its television channels and the ESPN+ streaming service. White signed an additional seven year deal with UFC in order to continue as president.
One of LeBatard’s concerns is that a lack of mainstream media coverage could result in a lack of accountability.
“This doesn’t stay in the news stream unless there’s media pressure,” LeBatard said. To have any consequences, this must be under media pressure. They’re the worldwide leader in sports and they do tend to help with how this stuff happens, and they’re compromised here by a business interest.
” I don’t believe there will be any consequences because it is impossible to have consequences if the outrage remains in one place.
“[White is] is so strong, independent and can even control the media monster that he has a relationship with, that I don’t know the implications of video of you punching your wife at a party. No matter the quotes from your wife saying how out of character it was, usually that video to a person of power is hugely damaging everywhere in sports. Everywhere in sports.
“But this guy works on a plane with his own outfit and a power that doesn’t come with a great deal of governance. He is not to be punished. It could have happened to Goodell, an owner or [White is] a commissioner. But if Goodell and an owner were involved in the incident, would you think that they would keep it quiet? Because I don’t. I don’t imagine if we had video of that it would be quiet.”