Anheuser-Busch, parent company of Budweiser and major UFC sponsor, has apparently warned the UFC about offensive remarks made by some fighters, and other employees. Anheuser-Busch has stated that if the UFC does not start taking appropriate action that there will be repercussions.
AdvertisingAge reports that multiple advocacy groups have complained to the company about sexist and homophobic comments made by UFC employees.
Anheuser-Busch did not elaborate on the actions that would be taken but stressed that as a company they “[embrace] diversity and [do] not condone insensitive and derogatory comments rooted in ethnicity, race, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, disability, etc.”
AdvertisingAge was given a statement on the matter from the UFC:
“With over 425 athletes on our roster, there have unfortunately been instances where a couple athletes have made insensitive or inappropriate comments. We don’t condone this behavior, and in no way is it reflective of the company or its values.”
The advocacy groups have also become a major voice in New York, where they have lobbied against the UFC for “permitting” homophobic, misogynistic, and violent language. One group, National Center on Domestic and Sexual Violence, specifically mentioned separate incidents involving fighters Quinton “Rampage” Jackson, Rashad Evans, and UFC analyst/comedian Joe Rogan.
The UFC responded to the website stating:
“Unlike most other sports leagues, we encourage our athletes to engage online. It is part of our company culture, and whenever you are at the forefront of a trend or initiative, it comes with its own pitfalls. We will continue to embrace social media while looking for better ways to stay in front of the issues. This includes a mandate for our athletes to attend sensitivity training and a seminar on proper use of social media.”
While hardcore fans may blow this off, it is important to realize that the UFC is in a precarious position as it sits at the edge of becoming a mainstream sport with its network and large sponsorships. Issues like these can be very damaging to both the perception of the sport as well as the financing of the sport. In short, this is not something the UFC can literally afford to ignore anymore.