• Loading stock data...
Wednesday, July 24, 2024
Join us this September for Tuned In Request to Attend

Is ESPN ‘Going Easy’ On Business Partner Dana White?

  • Criticism over ESPN’s coverage of Dana White’s altercation with wife criticized.
  • ESPN defends its coverage of its UFC business partner.
Dana White
Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

Ten days after video surfaced of UFC president Dana White slapping his wife, questions about ESPN’s alleged softball coverage are raised.

Former ESPN personality Jemele Hill accused her former network – and its biggest star Stephen A. Smith – of “intentionally going easy” on White, who was caught on camera angrily exchanging slaps with his wife Anne at a nightclub in Mexico. 

Yes, ESPN has covered the story. On Monday, for example, ESPN.com posted a story on the California Legislative Women’s Caucus calling on UFC owner Endeavor to remove White from his position. “SportsCenter” covered the story for nearly a minute Tuesday morning, and the network aired the TMZ video of the confrontation.

According to an ESPN spokesperson, the network has devoted much ink and air time to the story across its linear, audio and digital platforms.  

“We have been covering the story on our platforms since it broke and will continue to do so,” the spokesperson said. 

There’s a difference between saving-face coverage and ESPN’s flood-the-zone outrage on controversial issues, wrote Hill in The Atlantic. In a story headlined, “The Sports Scandal Almost Nobody Is Talking About,” Hill asked if ESPN’s five-year, $1.5 billion media rights deal with the UFC is making it pull its punches. 

dana-white-ari-emanuel

Can Endeavor Handle Dana White and Vince McMahon?

Vince McMahon has renewed speculation he may sell WWE. Maybe even to…
January 7, 2023

Beyond ESPN, UFC’s parent company —  entertainment giant Endeavor — has been quieter since the incident. Endeavor has yet to offer up public comment. FOS reported on Saturday that Endeavor was unlikely to let White go due to the incident. 

California state Sen. Nancy Skinner, chair of California Legislative Women’s Caucus, already aimed Endeavor CEO Ari Emanuel with Monday’s letter she co-authored that called for White’s removal.

In an interview with FOS, Skinner didn’t rule out reaching out to ESPN or its parent company, The Walt Disney Company, in a similar manner. 

“We will continue to put pressure wherever it’s appropriate,” Skinner said. 

Compare ESPN’s White coverage to that of NBA star Kyrie Irving, asked Hill. Much less NFL running back Ray Rice, who never played in the league again after TMZ published video of him knocking out his fiancee in an elevator in 2014.

Hill also pointed to Smith and “First Take” host Molly Qerim’s empathetic discussion of the White incident as an example of ESPN’s “compromised” coverage. 

“The issue isn’t that ESPN has ignored White’s situation entirely. It’s just that the coverage of the incident has overall been pretty soft,” she wrote. “Having worked at ESPN for 12 years, I know intimately the difference between cursory coverage and an ongoing national conversation fueled by the massive sports media machine. 

Unlike all other major ESPN broadcast partners like the NFL and MLB, UFC produces its own shows for the network. That gives White and UFC officials unparalleled control of their shows, leaving ESPN as the content’s delivery method. 

The first show since the White incident is slated to air on ESPN+ on Saturday. UFC didn’t return multiple FOS messages asking if it would address the White’s domestic incident or if he’d be on the show. 

Last week, ESPN staffer Jeff Wagenheim tweeted he and his colleagues had been told not to write anything inflammatory about the story.

“We’ve been told to not write anything incendiary on social media about the Dana White situation, and I understand why and have abided by that. I just ask y’all to understand that some of us at ESPN do not have as soft a take as this on domestic violence.”

Power Slap
exclusive

Dana White’s Slap-Fighting League Debut on TBS Delayed

Dana White and his wife recently had a physical altercation in Mexico.
January 5, 2023

He later clarified his position on Twitter: “There was no edict from ESPN bosses regarding the White situation, but in general, we are strongly discouraged from incendiary posts on social media, and with a business partner things are sensitive. My bad on the wording.”

Hill wasn’t surprised by the clarification.

“Given ESPN’s huge financial stake in UFC’s success, Wagenheim’s revelation is hardly surprising. Because ESPN is a business partner of virtually every major sports league in the country — the NFL, the NBA, college sports, and professional soccer, among others — the network’s journalists face a difficult balancing act when major players of those leagues behave inappropriate,” she wrote.

White himself expressed remorse about the incident to TMZ. And Anne White also expressed remorse, chalking up the incident to too much alcohol on New Year’s Eve.  

If White didn’t make any excuses for his violent behavior, why are others making excuses for him, Hill asked.

Linkedin
Whatsapp
Copy Link
Link Copied
Link Copied

What to Read

The Perfect Storm Propelling ‘EA Sports College Football’ to Early Success

Growing fandom and a long wait have already reaped dividends for EA.

Verstappen’s Slump Sparks F1 Ratings: Will More U.S. Fans Watch?

Formula One viewership has stalled over the last year as Verstappen has dominated.

WNBA All-Star Weekend Signals League’s Growth, Delivers Action

The WNBA All-Star weekend was a showcase of the league’s rise driven by rookies.
podcast thumbnail mobile
Front Office Sports Today

NFL’s 18-Game Season & Contract Holdouts, Olympics’ Newest Sport

0:00

Featured Today

The FTC Noncompete Ruling Could Change MMA As We Know It

Fighters could see their options—and earnings—grow.
July 21, 2024

O No Canada: The Next Big Sports Betting Scandal Could Erupt North of the Border

‘It’s open-season for match-fixing up there.’
July 20, 2024

The Road to the Return of ‘EA Sports College Football’

This summer, the biggest development in college sports is virtual.
Apr 15, 2024; Brooklyn, NY, USA; Caitlin Clark poses with WNBA commissioner Cathy Engelbert after being selected with the number one overall pick to the Indiana Fever during the 2024 WNBA Draft at the Brooklyn Academy of Music.
July 16, 2024

Women’s Sports Merch Is a $4 Billion Market, but Supply Isn’t Meeting Demand

Retailers can’t make women’s sports apparel fast enough.
Jun 6, 2024; Boston, Massachusetts, USA; Shaquille O'Neal looks on before the game between the Boston Celtics and the Dallas Mavericks in game one of the 2024 NBA Finals at TD Garden.

TNT Launches an A-List Marketing Blitz to Save ‘Inside the NBA’

The push has fans, players, and celebrities making noise.
July 23, 2024

Comcast Scores With NBA Deal and Olympics, but Financial Issues Brew

The NBC Sports parent company details its new NBA rights deal, even before a league announcement.
July 23, 2024

Everything You Need to Know: Where NBA, WBD Stand in Rights Decision

The interpretation of TNT Sports’ matching rights with the NBA amplifies the drama in the high-profile saga.
Sponsored

TopSpin 2K25 Brings the Legends of Tennis to Your Living Room

2K sports is reviving a classic with TopSpin 2K25.
July 23, 2024

WNBA Smashes Ratings Record With Competitive All-Star Game

The game was the league’s highest rated in more than 20 years.
July 22, 2024

Sports TV Ratings Tend to Dip During Election Season, but Money Will Flow

Prior history suggests the upcoming election season will again prove disruptive to sports viewership.
Hosts of Inside the NBA on TNT
July 22, 2024

TNT Sports’ Parent Moves to Keep NBA Rights Despite Financial Woes

Warner Bros. Discovery is attempting to make good on its bid to retain NBA rights.
July 22, 2024

Today’s the Day for WBD to Match Amazon’s NBA Offer

Amazon may have boxed out WBD in its offer.