How can Dana White bounce back when he isn’t facing real consequences for hitting his wife? | Opinion

UFC president Dana White has publicly addressed the domestic dispute with his wife, but there must be some accountability.

On Wednesday, White fielded questions from the media for the first time since his interview with TMZ after he was caught on camera slapping his wife in the face (after she slapped him first) on New Year’s Eve. It was an unscheduled appearance and one that did little to placate the need for answerability.

The smile White displayed at the UFC Apex was tough to overlook, because he apparently knows he will face no repercussions for his public display of domestic violence other than the personal guilt he says he’ll carry with him until the day he dies.

After his interview with TMZ, eyes and ears turned to the UFC, its parent company Endeavor, and TV partner ESPN for their reactions to the incident. The deafening silence was not a surprise to some, meeting the unfortunate expectation that White would somehow come out of this situation with zero punishment, unlike a fighter who would be subject to the UFC’s sparsely enforced conduct policy that explicitly lists domestic violence as a punishable action.

A huge public figure for the UFC, arguably its biggest ever, was caught on video slapping his wife. And yet, business apparently will proceed as usual.

White even opened his statements by asking reporters in attendance to not question the fighters, who were about to sit in the same seat, about the situation. The message was loud and clear: Let’s sweep this under the rug, because, after all, this is about the fighters.

The handling of this incident is a sharp contrast from other major sports organizations that take domestic violence seriously. Former Cy Young Award winner Trevor Bauer was recently released by the Los Angeles Dodgers after initially receiving an unprecedented two-year suspension by Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred in April for violating MLB’s domestic violence and sexual assault policy. That suspension was overturned by an independent arbitrator, but the club still wanted nothing to do with Bauer and parted ways.

Now imagine if it were Manfred himself and his wife in that video. Team owners, players, networks, sponsors, etc., would be up in arms about the reflection of his actions on the MLB brand and the message it sends to its fans. With no legal ramifications at play, calls for Manfred’s resignation would be loud and frequent as the world’s biggest sports story unfolded. At the very least, the stick and ball sports address their domestic violence issues.

White is a significantly more important figure to the UFC than Manfred is to MLB, and yet little outcry has been present in his situation aside from a few prominent voices inside the MMA bubble. Sure, the story was picked up, a few celebrities had their say, California senators want him removed, but ultimately, since ESPN, “the world-wide leader,” offered little coverage of the situation, the story was hardly a watercooler conversation.

Even an article posted by ESPN stated that ESPN had nothing to say about the situation. Just bizarre stuff.

 

Could you imagine fighters, coaches, gym owners, and sponsors, demanding accountability for White? We don’t have to imagine it, because we have seen it play out, and the response has left much to be desired. It seems for every vocal person speaking out against White’s actions, there’s another one or two right there to defend him.

Let’s be clear: White does not want you to come to his defense.

“People should not be defending me over this thing no matter what,” White said –and that’s the most commendable stance he has taken throughout this ordeal.

In the midst of a month-long gap between events when fight news is sparse, the UFC’s biggest non-fighting star slapping his wife in public view didn’t get the attention it should have. Perhaps that’s an indictment of how the general public views the fight world and the UFC. Certainly the lack of accountability here will do nothing to change that perception for the positive, as it’s apparent White is afforded his own set of rules.

Under the “social responsibility” section of Endeavor’s website, the company states: “With one of the largest cultural footprints in the world, we have the unique ability to influence perception, frame collective understanding and inspire change.”

In a country in which one in four women experience domestic violence, what change is inspired when there is zero accountability for the most prominent figure of a major sports organization slapping his wife on video?

In perhaps one of the biggest public relations fumbles of White’s unexpected appearance Wednesday, he struggled to answer how he intends to use this situation to support domestic violence victims. There was no plan, such as a donation to a local women’s shelter like The Shade Tree in Las Vegas. Nothing.

“There’s been a lot of awareness,” White said. “I haven’t hid from this thing, I haven’t ran from it, and I’ve taken it head on from Day 1. I don’t know what else I could do.”

Yikes.

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For an example of how a major sport does it, the NFL has worked with The National Domestic Violence Hotline since 2014, a partnership that has raised more than $50 million.

As far as that fighter conduct policy goes? “It all depends on different situations,” White responded when asked if there will be changes for fighters involved in domestic violence situations. Even he knows it will be tough to take a hardline stance when he is giving himself a free pass. White continued by saying he hopes fighters will see what he has gone through and not make the same mistakes. Seriously? What about this debacle would deter anyone when there hasn’t been a semblance of accountability?

We have now been led to believe that White’s internal guilt and the effect it will have on his family is punishment enough. Sure, there absolutely will be a host of new challenges at home that he admits will be a struggle to solve, but that is not something the public, UFC staff or fighters will be able to observe.

White has made it clear there will be no self-imposed sanctions when it comes to his duties with the promotion, and therein lies the problem: This decision should not be in his hands.

When White was asked what his discipline should be, it was almost as if he never gave the idea a genuine thought. He flipped the question right back on reporters as he offered the suggested notion of a 30 or 60-day suspension, which he immediately admitted wouldn’t be a punishment – and he’s absolutely correct.

White just had a nearly month-long absence from public promotional duties when the UFC was idle for the holidays. In addition, he already doesn’t attend every event throughout the hectic UFC calendar these days – a recent trend that has seemed to prepare everyone for the day he steps away from the promotion completely, or at the very least, instill confidence in his staff that they can conduct business properly while he’s away.

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If Dana White isn't severely punished for slapping his wife, what are we even doing? | Opinion

Yet, when faced with a situation that could (and perhaps should) have taken him away from his role for a significant amount of time, White said, “Me leaving hurts the company, hurts my employees, hurts the fighters.”

Of course, White’s influence is significant. But if he were forced to be away from the company for say, a year, would it simply implode? If White, the UFC, Endeavor, and ESPN believe that would be the case, they should be asking different questions internally about its business operation. After all, this is about the fighters, right?

While it was fitting that White faced the media, this wasn’t it.

As White rose from his seat after nearly 14 minutes and placed the mic on the table, the message he left with it was that he, too, doesn’t bounce back from hitting a woman. That’s only because he has never made contact with a surface of consequence to force a rebound.

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Here's everything Dana White said during news conference about slapping his wife

Story originally appeared on MMA Junkie