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'You don't recover from laying hands on a woman': Will Dana White be held accountable for her actions?

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In 2014, Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice was arrested for assaulting his fiancée, Janay Palmer, in Atlantic City, NJ. way the NFL handled the situation. At the time, the UFC was a partner of FOX, and White was invited to comment on the situation while it was still in development.

“It’s tough,” White said on FOX Sports Live. “First of all, the video is awful. Absolutely awful. You’re talking about a guy who’s been in the fight world since he was 19. It’s the most disturbing thing you’ll ever see. What’s so bad about the punch is that he shows no remorse after throwing it. You know, if you’ve done something in anger and said, ‘Oh my God. What did I do?’ There’s none of that with this guy. I don’t know all the ins and outs of what Roger Goodell did or knew, or how he was treated, but it’s definitely bad. I can tell you one thing: I wouldn’t want to be Roger Goodell.”

Well, for White that day has arrived. Only the assailant in a recent video showing domestic violence is not some random UFC fighter. He is White himself.

On Monday, TMZ released a video showing White slapping his wife, Anne, during a holiday New Year’s Eve party in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. The slap isn’t as violent as Rice’s, but it’s not a more acceptable action, and the incident as a whole is disturbing. White addressed his actions to TMZ in a separate interview shortly after the video’s release, saying that he is ashamed of his actions, that there is no excuse for what happened,

“I’m one of the guys, you’ve heard me say for years, there’s never, ever an excuse for a guy to get his hands on a woman, and now here I am on TMZ talking about it. …

“People are going to have opinions about this, and most people’s opinions would be right, especially in my case. You never lay hands on a woman.

And yet, he did.

Anne White also released a statement to TMZ, saying that “nothing like this has happened before”. She attributed the incident largely to alcohol, saying “things got out of hand, on both sides”.

But that doesn’t change what happened. White, the public face of a multi-billion dollar company, which has repeatedly allowed wrestlers accused or convicted of domestic violence to fight for the company, publicly assaulted his wife.

Domestic violence is nothing new in MMA. Countless wrestlers, past and present, have faced allegations of some form of domestic violence. In fact, the problem is so serious that, in 2015, HBO Real Sports did a story on the subject, finding that arrests for domestic violence involving MMA fighters are more than twice the national average, 750 per 100,000. But the problem never arose with the head of a big promotion. Now it does, and what comes next will be revealing.

While Rice is not a fighter, when the incident happened in 2014, White took a hard-line stance on the topic of domestic violence.

“We’ve been human beings in allowing these guys, other guys to make up for what they’ve done and come back,” White said. “There’s one thing you never recover from, and that’s putting your hands on a woman. It’s been like this in the UFC since we started here. You don’t recover from putting your hands on a woman.

In practice, this hard line has proven to be confusing at best. For every Will Chope and Luis Pena that were released by the UFC, fighters like Abel Trujillo and Anthony Johnson were signed and re-signed to the promotion. After releasing Thiago Silva in 2014 on White’s claim that he would “never fight in the UFC again” following an arrest for domestic violence, the UFC rehired Silva after the charges against him were dropped, only to cut him again. Shortly after. And then there was the whole Greg Hardy fiasco.

A cynical person might look at the above examples – a very small collection of the countless occurrences in this sport and this promotion – and come to the simple conclusion that, in fact, a person only “recovers” from domestic violence if that person has not star power.

In that respect, White is in luck. Aside from Conor McGregor, White is the biggest star in the UFC and looks well positioned to maintain his role at the helm of the company. ESPN has since dismissed the situation, declining to comment, and UFC parent company Endeavor has yet to issue any kind of statement. The hope, it seems, is that this whole situation will be over quickly. And truth be told, it can.

Combat sports have long existed on the periphery of conventional athletics. With the exception of the most egregious violations of propriety, the world at large seems content to forgo the various improprieties that occur in the MMA universe. If the answer of several fighters and fans by any indication, a lot of this universe isn’t all that interested in accountability either. And that’s unfortunate, because without true accountability, there can be no progress.

“The prevention of domestic violence and the education of athletes is extremely important for the organization. UFC holds its athletes to the highest standard and will continue to take appropriate action if and when warranted.

“UFC requires all athletes to act ethically and responsibly, as set forth in the UFC Fighter Conduct Policy,” the UFC said in a statement responding to HBO Real Sports’ reporting on domestic violence in MMA. “The organization will not tolerate domestic violence, sexual assault or any other violation of policy. Every athlete deserves due process and all official allegations will be properly reviewed and thoroughly investigated by an independent party.”

Dana White is not a fighter, but she is the face of the organization. Why should the default be smaller for him? White is the 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. It means a lot. For him to go through this, at the very least, it gives the impression that MMA is a haven for this type of activity. This should not happen.

Here’s a thought experiment: if NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell was caught on video doing the exact same thing, what would happen? The most likely answer is that Goodell resigns or is fired. The NFL doesn’t need the scandal, and the hypocrisy of having someone beat their wife and then judging other athletes for doing the same is pretty glaring. It’s simply easier to cut ties with him; after all, there’s no shortage of people who could fill his shoes – and who weren’t filmed abusing their spouse.

But if Goodell somehow kept his job, you can be absolutely sure he would. at least face a suspension, a fine and certain requirements to attend counseling and/or participate in a domestic violence PSA.

Again, why should the pattern be any different for White?

I’m not necessarily arguing that Dana White should be fired. I’m a strong believer in second chances, but you have to earn that second chance. White needs to have a proper, public reckoning with his actions and how they affect not only him and his family, but the countless people who work for and with him, and the countless fighters who compete in his promotion. Yes, he issued an apology, which apparently seems genuine, and that’s a good start. But it’s just a start. It shouldn’t be the end.

Work with domestic violence nonprofits, take more serious principles against signing fighters accused of domestic violence, stand up and be a proactive force for change. Use this “unfortunate situation”, as you call it, as a catalyst to be better. This is the only way to put this incident behind you and move forward productively.

Or just give up. After all, you don’t recover from putting your hands on a woman.


If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic violence, you can contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233)

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