The mixed martial arts (MMA) world is still reeling over recent footage released by TMZ showing UFC President, Dana White, slapping his wife at a Cabo San Lucas nightclub on New Year’s Eve. But, outside of our combat sports bubble, the incident is generating very little mainstream traction. Aside from some light web coverage, UFC’s broadcast partner, ESPN, hasn’t featured the story much at all.
Some of that silence can be attributed to the wall-to-wall coverage of NFL player, Damar Hamlin, who went into cardiac arrest on-field during Monday Night Football and remains in critical condition. But, in the latest episode of The Dan LeBatard Show, LeBatard questions whether his former employer (ESPN) will ever end up covering the story as it should.
“I am curious as to how ESPN is going to cover news of Dana White and video of him slapping his wife at New Year’s festivities, apologizing, saying there’s no excuse, saying that he had been drinking,” he said. “If it had been Roger Goodell or an owner of an NFL team, I imagine it would be covered with a great deal of zeal, even though ESPN is corporate partners with the NFL.
“In this case, Dana White is the most famous person in the sport, even with all the fighters, because he’s the face and voice of the sport,” LeBatard continued. “If he’s not, he’s close to it. And we’ve talked before, it’s not even the crime, it’s the size and the fame of the criminal.”
“How does ESPN cover this one?” he added. “Because usually with these things if there is video and mainstream media pressure — and ESPN is the one most capable of applying mainstream media pressure, but they have a partnership, an uncomfortable partnership with Dana White, that ran off the one real journalist they had in that sport, Ariel Helwani, and we ran into it because Dana White has a great deal of power at ESPN — how is that story going to be covered, how is that story supposed to be covered?”
LeBatard’s co-host, Jon Weiner (a.k.a. Stugotz) also doubted ESPN would bring the story back up once the Hamlin story cooled down.
“When they get to the story, I’d like to think they’ll cover it the way they’ll cover any other story of this nature,” Stugotz said. “The problem is there’s a major partnership, and I know well enough to know that they likely won’t cover it the way they should because of that partnership.”
“This doesn’t stay in the news stream unless there’s media pressure,” LeBatard said. “There needs to be media pressure, there needs to be outrage in order for this to have consequences. 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.”
“Because I don’t think there’ll be consequences for this because there can’t be consequences for it unless the level of outrage stays in a place that’s so powerful, so independent, and can even control to a degree the media monster that he has a partnership with.
“So I don’t know what the consequences will be to video of you slapping your wife at a party,” he added. “You slapping her back, because of the fight you’ve gotten into. No matter the quote from your wife on 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 his own plane, with an outfit and with power that doesn’t come with a great deal of governance,” LeBatard concluded. “Like who is there to punish him? And if it happened with Goodell or an owner can you imagine it’d be quiet? Because I don’t. I don’t imagine if we had video of that it’d be quiet.”