Stephen A Tackles Narrative That ESPN Is Shielding Dana White

Prominent ESPN broadcaster Stephen A. Smith has addressed the indications that the network and its journalists are downplaying the significance of UFC President Dana White‘s physical altercation with his wife.

On New Year’s Eve, Dana White was captured on video slapping his wife, Anne, in retaliation to being struck by her inside a Cabo nightclub. Although some, including UFC light heavyweight Jamahal Hill, have defended White by placing some of the blame on Anne, the UFC boss himself has insisted that his actions are indefensible.

In spite of this, many share the belief that the media, especially ESPN, is not holding Dana White fully accountable for his actions. This includes Stephen A. Smith, who is widely regarded as the face of the network.

Last week, a clip of Stephen A. and his First Take colleague Molly Qerim discussing White’s altercation with his wife went viral. Both Smith and Qerim were accused of going easy on White, with Qerim appearing to outright defend him altogether.

Following White’s media scrum on Wednesday, the First Take hosts would once again discuss the issue, this time with Smith addressing the perception that he and ESPN are not appreciating the gravity of White’s domestic incident.

“I want to get into this. Because this is First Take, and we don’t run from issues, and we ain’t about to start now. And people who have implied that somehow, someway we run from issues or we soft-soak stuff, I don’t think they know what the hell they’re talking about. So I’m gonna speak for myself…

“I’ve already stated for the record: Number 1, I spoke to Dana White. Dana White knows exactly where I stand. He was wrong. You do not put your hands on a woman. Period. I also said that Dana White deserves the same punishment he would hand down to one of his fighters.”

Molly Qerim Clarifies Remarks About Dana White

Molly Qerim, Dana White
MTV and MMA Fighting

In the aforementioned clip from last week of Qerim and Smith discussing White, Qerim was quoted as saying the following:

“When you’re under the influence, not shining moments, often people don’t make the best decisions,” Qerim said of White. “In that sense, it’s a cautionary tale. In terms of it being an isolated incident, I’ve known Dana since I was 22, and I have the utmost respect for him.

“I don’t judge people by their worst moments…as a woman, his wife’s hands were also on him, and no one should put their hands on anyone. Male-to-female, or female-to-male.”

On Thursday’s episode of First Take, after Smith touched on the matter of punishment, Qerim would add more context to her comments from last week by clarifying that she does believe White should suffer some consequences.

“I said he deserves a stricter punishment than that because the role he plays, it’s a leadership role. But people seem to forget that…

“The one other piece I want to say is there should be some credit to First Take as the one show that’s discussing this and giving our opinion, for that matter. And I realize that clips circulated and there was conversation that we weren’t strict enough, but people weren’t taking the part about the punishment that should be exacted. They’re focusing on the part where you said Dana’s a friend, but we owe the audience full disclosure to know the relationship of WME and Dana.

“But we condemn — domestic violence is egregious, it’s unacceptable, it shouldn’t happen, and he shouldn’t be able to exact his punishment. And so many people make poor decisions or get involved with the law, and they don’t get to say, ‘Hey, my shame’s enough.’ No, you face punishment in addition to that, and that should happen here. And he has a boss, and that is Endeavor, and I expect them to hand something down.”

Stephen A: ESPN & Dana White Know Where I Stand

Stephen A Smith
Image via ESPN broadcast

Stephen A would go on to explicate in detail how he has responded to the matter, insisting that he has not minced words when discussing the Dana White scandal.

“Now, am I an advocate of cancel culture, where you want him to lose his job? No, and I’m not apologizing for that. Married 27 years to his wife. His wife spoke about this issue as well. They’re working it out as a family. It’s a family matter. It’s a private matter, but it became public.

“But the fact of the matter is that at the end of the day, Dana White was wrong. You do not do what he did to his wife, which he has openly admitted. Does he deserve to be punished? Yes, he does. Does he deserve to be the person who decides what his punishment is? No, he does not. He does not. Somebody else needs to be able to make that call, which is what I said.”

“Now Stephen A. sits up here and I’m on First Take. Who do I work for? I work for ESPN. Who’s the UFC have a deal with? That’s ESPN. We haven’t heard anything. William Morris Endeavor, that is the agency that represents me. Technically, you can say that. It goes a bit deeper.

“I’m at William Morris because of Mark Shapiro. Let me be very, very clear about that. Mark Shapiro is the president. Mark Shapiro is the person that hired me at ESPN in 2003. Our relationship spans that long….you’re asking me what my opinion should be? I’ve told Dana White where I stood. I’ve told Mark Shapiro where I’ve stood. I’ve told ESPN where I stand. I’ve told the national audience where I stand.”

Smith went on to conclude that, ultimately, it’s not he who decides Dana White’s repercussions, but that the onus is not on journalist like himself but is rather on Endeavor and the authority figures at play to dole out any significant punishment to White.

White himself has stated that his punishment is already playing out in front of the public eye and are two-fold. Firstly, he will go through the rest of his days branded with the stigma of a wife beater. Additionally, he believes that many people, including active fighters on his roster, have likely lost respect for him.

Please provide transcription credit with a link to this article if you use any of these quotes.

Related Articles