The following is an editorial, expressing the opinions of MMA writer and one of the more obnoxious Fight Nerd correspondents Peter Lampasona. The opinions expressed in this editorial do not necessarily reflect those of The Fight Nerd.com or any of its contributors.
Yesterday, an article from ad analysts Advertising Age started making its rounds about the internet regarding a warning that major UFC sponsor Anheuser-Busch delivered to the world’s largest MMA promotion. The brewing company responsible for Bud Light and its terrible slogans issued a public statement that they were displeased with racist and homophobic remarks from UFC employed athletes.
“We’ve communicated to the UFC our displeasure with certain remarks made by some of its fighters, and they have promised to address this,” the statement read. “If the incidents continue, we will act.”
The fighting words from Anheuser-Busch towards its long-time business partner and the context from which they came provide a perfect example of exactly how over-blown the image standards for mixed martial arts organizations really are.
The ultimatum from one of the biggest and oldest UFC sponsors comes off the heels of pressure from advocacy groups that have been butting heads with the MMA giant. The actual offensive statements in question were documented last January by the National Center on Domestic and Sexual Violence, where the organization cited off-color comments from a few athletes, mostly Quinton “Rampage” Jackson, as justification for why the whole sport of MMA “contributes to a culture of violence against women, and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.”
But, the NCDSV statement, which was written to urge members of the New York State Assembly to uphold the ban on the sport, was not the catalyst for Anheuser-Busch’s tiff with the UFC. The problems for Bud Light started with the commercial spot below featuring UFC ring girl Arianny Celeste:
UK media watchdog group Alcohol Justice described the above ad as “disgusting and typical of their cage-fighting sponsorship advertising campaign.” And it is at the moment the above commercial seems any more harmful to society than anything generated from any other professional sport that the double-standard for the public relations of mixed martial arts officially becomes ludicrous.
Read more about advertising and the atrocities other sports don’t get in trouble for after the jump.
Let’s start with the obvious. Beer commercials, including ones from Anheuser-Busch, have been using sex to sell their wares long before most of this article’s readers were born. The only thing that makes the Celeste spot particularly offensive is her line delivery. And, it should be noted that whichever producer prevented her from singing deserves some kind of humanitarian award.
But, while criticism started with the wholly unremarkable ad spot, it does run deeper than one Bud Light Lime commercial. As does the irony of the outrage. The same night the Anheuser-Busch statement went public, Capitals forward Joel Ward – a black Canadian – scored the game-winning goal in overtime against the Boston Bruins in the NHL playoffs. Boston hockey fans took to the internet and responded with all the poise and class expected from drunken New England hockey fans. For those who can stomach it, there’s a nice compilation of responses to the overtime goal here.
If I were a betting man, I’d put my last dime against the NHL being held accountable by advertisers for the truly vile level of racism displayed by fans. The sport of hockey as a concept taking the blame for sending bad messages is also damn near impossible. Yet, the UFC and all of mixed martial arts is being called out to answer for what is essentially Rampage’s inappropriate sense of humor.
You could point out that my opening example wasn’t fair. After all, none of the Bruins fans featured are employed by the NHL. And Rampage, along with some other athletes that have gotten flack for insensitive or bigoted behavior, are major figures in the sport.
Google “Brett Farve sex scandal.” While you’re at it, search “Michael Vick trial” or anything about former Steeler’s staple Ben Roethlisberger. I know the trouble that these athletes got in to was recent enough that you feel you remember it, but go read up on it, anyway. Let all the details sink in.
Now that you’re caught up, please hit the comment section and explain to me how much worse it is for a popular MMA athlete to tweet an offensive joke. All those professional football players I mentioned have a good chance of being in the hall of fame one day. Of course, they all got into trouble as individuals. But was the NFL called on by advertisers to answer for the bad message their players sent to fans?
I believe that, as a newer sport with a very high average education level and a culture steeped in reverence and tradition, MMA can be held to a higher standard than other sports. MMA can, and often has, lived up to to that higher standard.
This is not to say that the culture of MMA is perfect. It’s not. Nor that a relatively low amount of scandal excuses bad behavior from athletes in MMA. It doesn’t. But the disproportionate amount of blow-back to the entire sport for negative publicity from individuals passed insane about a mile back.