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Reports: Waiver allows UFC to revoke purses if fighters criticize COVID-19 protocols

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UFC reportedly made participants sign a waiver relating to COVID-19.

Stephen Espinoza took to social media to state that UFC fighters were required to sign a waiver where they can’t disparage the UFC’s COVID-19 protocols. The Showtime executive also notes how fighters would risk losing their event payment if they do so.

Both New York Times and Yahoo! Sports have since confirmed the existence of these waivers, along with the section about anti-disparagement. From NYT:

U.F.C. 249 fighters could lose significant amounts of money if they “suggest or communicate” that the event is being held “without appropriate health, safety or other precautions,” according to a copy of a participation agreement obtained by The New York Times. If fighters violate this provision, the U.F.C. may “revoke all or any part of any prize monies or awards won by the Participant.” These can include “purses, win bonuses, other fight-related bonuses and event-based merchandise royalties.”

Dana White also issued a statement to Yahoo! Sports, claiming it only applies to lies and trashed the person who first brought it public in Espinoza.

“It’s called an anti-disparagement clause and if I know what that is, that scumbag (Espinoza) is a lawyer and you would think he should know what that is,” White said.

“If a fighter says something that isn’t true — if he says we didn’t test anyone for this — that would [violate the agreement],” he said. “But if he said something that was true, his opinion, then that is different.”

The New York Times though, disputes White’s statements, saying “nothing in the agreement obtained by the Times says that only untrue statements can be punished.”

Simply spreading lies and falsehoods about these protocols can conceivably be litigated by the UFC without the presence of any waiver, so this counter report from NYT makes more sense.

Here’s additional parts of the waiver that has been released via Yahoo:

“If the Participant is a Fighter, the Participant hereby acknowledges and agrees that in the event that the Participant breaches this Paragraph 7, the Company may revoke all or any part of any prize monies or awards won by the Participant in connection with the Activities, including, but not limited to, purses, win bonuses, other fight-related bonuses and event-based merchandise royalties.”

...

“The Participant fully understands and agrees that the Participant’s preparation for, travel for, lodging, attendance at, contact with and consumption or use of, food, beverages and other consumables at, participation and appearance in and/or provision of services or personnel for the Activities (collectively, the “Covered Matters”) may lead to exposure to COVID-19 and that contraction of COVID-19 may result in severe and permanent damage to the health of the Participant and/or others, including, but not limited to, death, fever, weight loss, irreversible pulmonary, respiratory and/or neurological system damage, mental or emotional distress, temporary or permanent disability, loss of income, loss of employment, loss of financial or other opportunities, medical expenses, which may or may not be covered by insurance, cleaning expenses, mandatory self-quarantine, loss of licenses and similar approvals by any regulatory or self-regulatory body to which the Participant or any of the Releasing Parties (as defined below) is subject, investigation and/or prosecution by civil, criminal or other regulatory authorities and other harms and lost opportunities, whether economic, reputational or otherwise (collectively, the “Harms”).

Bloody Elbow’s John Nash analyzes what that anti-disparagement clause could mean.

“If proper procedures are not taken during the event, such as Participants are not being tested or social distancing standards are being routinely ignored, it seems very doubtful we will learn this from any of those signees. Not only does the agreement seemingly forbid voicing any such concerns, but if the person saying it is a fighter, they could incur a large financial penalty — basically everything they earned from their bout.

“The end result of any clause like this is that it pretty much silences any whistleblower that might see something that they disagree with.”

Jacare Souza and two others, who had been in the host hotel for days, tested positive for COVID-19 on Friday and was subsequently removed from Saturday’s UFC 249 event.