In 2014, Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice was arrested for assaulting his fiancee, Janay Palmer, in Atlantic City, N.J. The incident became a major national news story that year, both due to the videos that came out revealing the violent assault and for the way the NFL handled the situation. White was asked by FOX to comment while the UFC was being partnered with FOX.
“It’s a tough one,” White said on FOX Sports Live. The video is absolutely horrifying. It is absolutely horrifying. You’re talking about a guy who’s been in the fight business since he was 19 years old. It is the most disturbing thing you will ever see. It’s as disturbing as the punch, but he doesn’t show any remorse for what he did. You know, if you did something in anger and you go, ‘Oh my god. What did I do?’ There’s none of that with this guy. Although I do not know everything about Roger Goodell’s past or present, nor how it was managed, it is clear that it was a bad experience. I can tell you this: I wouldn’t want to be Roger Goodell.”
Well, for White that day has come. Only the assailant in a recent video showing domestic violence isn’t some random UFC fighter. White is the one who did it.
On Monday, TMZ released a video showing White slap his wife, Anne, while at a New Year’s Eve party on vacation in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. The slap is not nearly as violent as Rice’s, but it is no more acceptable of an action, and the incident as a whole is unsettling. White spoke out about his actions in a separate interview with TMZ shortly after the video had been released. He said that he was embarrassed and that there are no excuses for his actions.
” I’m one the guys. You’ve heard it for years. There’s no excuse for a guy to get his hands on a girl. And now, here’s me on TMZ discussing this. …
“People are going to have opinions on this, and most of the people’s opinions would be right, especially in my case. You can’t touch a woman
And yet, he did.
Anne White released a statement on TMZ as well, saying, “nothing similar has ever occurred before.”
But that doesn’t change what happened. White is the public face for a multibillion-dollar company. He has allowed domestic violence fighters to fight for it repeatedly and publicly struck his wife.
Domestic violence is nothing new to MMA. Countless fighters, past and present, have faced charges for some form of domestic abuse. In fact, the problem is so bad that in 2015, HBO Real Sports did a piece on the subject, finding that domestic violence arrests involving MMA fighters are more than double average national rate, 750 per 100,000. The problem was never with the leader of major promotions. It has now, and the next steps will prove to be quite interesting.
Though Rice is not a fighter, when the incident happened in 2014, White took a hardline stance on the topic of domestic violence.
“We’ve been human beings in letting these guys, other guys make up for what they’ve done and come back,” White said. One thing you can’t do is bounce back from: putting your hand on a female. Been that way in the UFC since we started here. You don’t bounce back from putting your hands on a woman.”
In practice, this hardline is at best blurry. Abel Trujillo, Anthony Johnson and Luis Pena were all signed to UFC contracts. After releasing Thiago Silva in 2014 with the claim from White that he “will never fight in the UFC again” following an arrest for domestic violence, the UFC re-signed Silva after the charges against him were dropped, only to then re-cut him shortly after. And then there was the entire Greg Hardy fiasco.
A cynical person may look at these examples, which are a small selection of many instances in the sport. They might draw the conclusion that a person doesn’t bounce back from domestic violence if they lack star power.
In that regard, White is in luck. White, aside from Conor McGregor is the UFC’s biggest star and appears well placed to continue his position at the top of the organization. ESPN has already hand-waived the situation aside, declining to comment, and the UFC’s parent company, Endeavor, has yet to issue any kind of statement. The hope, it seems, is that this entire situation might blow over quickly. It may, truthfully.
Combat sports have long existed on the periphery of mainstream athletics. Barring all but the most egregious violations of decorum, the world at large seems content to hand-waive away the various improprieties that take place in the MMA universe. If the response of various fighters and fans is any indication, much of that universe isn’t all that interested in accountability, either. It’s unfortunate because there is no real accountability without which we can make progress.
” The prevention and education of domestic violence is of paramount importance to UFC. UFC will maintain the highest standards for its athletes and take necessary action when needed.
“UFC demands that all fighters act ethically and responsibly, as required by the UFC Fighter Conduct Policy.” The UFC responded to the HBO Real Sports report about domestic violence in MMA. The UFC will not tolerate any domestic violence or sexual assault. Every athlete is deserving of due process and all official allegations will be duly reviewed and thoroughly investigated by an independent party.”
Dana White may not be a fighter but he’s the face of the organisation. He should be held to a higher standard than anyone else. White is the very public face of an organization that has historically employed people accused and convicted of domestic violence, and he operates in a sport with a serious domestic violence problem. This is a lot. This gives the impression that MMA has become a safe haven for such activities. This should never be permitted.
Here’s a thought experiment: If NFL commissioner Roger Goodell was caught on video doing the same exact thing, what happens? The most likely answer is that Goodell resigns, or is fired. The NFL doesn’t need the scandal, and the hypocrisy of having someone who himself has beaten his wife then render judgment on other athletes for doing the same is too glaring. It is simply easier to cut ties with him; after all, there are no shortage of people who can take his place — and who haven’t been filmed striking their spouse.
But if Goodell were to keep his job you can be certain that he would face a suspension and a fine. There may also be requirements for counseling or participation in domestic violence PSAs.
Again, why should the standard be any different for White?
I am not arguing for Dana White to be fired. Although I strongly believe in second chances you must earn them. White needs to have a proper and public reckoning with his actions and how they affect not just him and his family, but the numerous people that work for and with him, and the countless fighters that compete in his promotion. He did apologize, which on the surface seems sincere, but that is only the beginning. It’s just a beginning. This should not be considered the final.
Work with domestic violence non-profits, adopt more serious principles against signing fighters accused of domestic violence, stand up and be a proactive force for change. This “unfortunate circumstance”, as you like to call it, can be used as an opportunity for improvement. That’s the only way to put this incident behind you and move forward productively.
Or just quit. After all, you don’t bounce back from putting your hands on a woman.
If you or someone you know is experience domestic violence, you can reach out to the U.S. National Domestic Violence Hotline 1-800-799-SAFE (7233)