It took the public leak of elevator footage for the Baltimore Ravens and NFL to take action beyond a weak, slap on the wrist two game suspension for Ray Rice. That it took too long for the hammer to truly drop--not to mention how disgusting it was for the Ravens to have Rice's wife apologize for "her part" in the incident--shouldn't be overlooked, but the hammer did eventually drop. Rice has now been released from the Ravens and is suspended indefinitely by the league, seemingly ending his career.
It presents a stark contrast to recent actions taken by the UFC, who jumped at the opportunity to bring Thiago Silva back into the fold when charges were dropped following the accusations of domestic violence, threats involving firearms and a standoff with the police.
And that contrast should give fight fans pause before lashing out at the NFL for their mishandling of the Rice situation.
The Silva situation came on the heels of a five fight streak that saw him fail two drug tests and miss weight once, and his texted death threats to his wife certainly would seem to violate several parts of the UFC Code of Conduct (at the very least the "violent, threatening or harassing behavior" and "resisting arrest" portions). To our knowledge, the UFC did not follow the code of conduct in "directing an investigation, which may include interviews and information-gathering from medical experts, law enforcement officers and other relevant professionals" as part of the disciplinary process.
Instead, once the charges were dropped, Silva was rushed back onto the roster. Complete with a throat slashing photo from his camp.
No one is suggesting that any accusation result in a permanent blackballing from the sport, but this was a situation in which certain things were beyond dispute and these are things the UFC claimed to have set up a process to investigate and deal with.
And the handling of the Silva situation shouldn't be the only thing that makes MMA fans hesitate before going after the NFL for their impotent handling of a star's shocking domestic violence incident.
Here's a depressing (and certainly incomplete) quick list of fighters who have appeared in major MMA promotions who have been accused of or charged with violent acts against women:
- Anthony Johnson
- Phil Davis
- Thiago Silva
- Abel Trujillo
- Alistair Overeem
- Frank Trigg
- Josh Grispi
- War Machine
- Jason Miller
- Will Chope
- Dustin Holyko
- Kyacey Uscola
- Tito Ortiz
- Brandon Saling
- Mike Whitehead
- Brett Rogers
- Hermes Franca
- Maiquel Falcao
- Devin Cole
- Joe Son
- Jeremy Jackson
It's a problem that seeps down into the language used by fighters and executives in the sport. Sydnie Jones took a look at much of this in the first part of her series The Rising Cost of Sexism, Misogyny and Domestic Violence in MMA at WomensMMA.com. But one part sticks out in our acceptance of the use of violent imagery toward women as "just part of the game," Jon Jones' assertion that he'd make Daniel Cormier his wife for a night:
Careless bullshit like this turns violence against women into an issue treated with a minimum of concern. When you joke about abuse/rape, the literal message you are sending is that the concept is something to laugh at, something not worth taking seriously. This subtext contributes to negative, uninformed ideas about women and abuse/rape.
But go ahead and ask Jonny Bones Jones if he’s an advocate of rape or violence against women. He’ll likely say no, and I’m sure it’s true. So then what does he mean by saying he was going to make DC his "wife" during their fight? Here are some possibilities.
-JBJ (figuratively) intends to give DC a night of consensual passion, leaving him satisfied and feeling treasured and loved.
-JBJ (figuratively) intends to physically dominate DC in the same way he (figuratively?) does his wife at night.
-JBJ (figuratively) intends to use his physical dominance to force DC into submitting to him sexually in the same way he (figuratively?) does his wife at night.
Whatever the allusion bouncing around JBJ’s jellied brain was, the subtext is clear: a man physically dominating a woman is something to brag about, something to laugh about, and if he can do the same to his opponent? Beastmode. Obviously, turning your opponent into a metaphorical wife proxy in physical combat is a clear indication of superiority.
And even concerns about equality and safety are met with a "hope you die" by visible members of the UFC:
If you're a man and you call yourself a feminist I hope you choke to death on vegan pizza while crying over a lady gaga song— Joe Rogan (@joerogan) April 5, 2013
MMA, like all sports, needs to be better about this.
Our sister sport, boxing, is of course no better. You'll be asked this Saturday to pay for Floyd Mayweather's rematch with Marcos Maidana. Mayweather has a lengthy history of run-ins with the law over violence toward women and his ex-fiance is adding a new set of allegations.
It's hard being a fan of sports. Bad guys will find their way into the things we love and that sucks. But we can, and should, hold those in charge to a higher standard when it comes to dealing with them.