SHOWTIME Sports president, Stephen Espinoza hasn’t always had a great relationship with UFC president Dana White.
However, he might have tossed the dirt onto the grave when he shared a UFC contract with his Twitter followers. It exposed the latest clause that forbids fighters to discuss UFC’s COVID-19 safety protocols or risk losing their entire purse.
“Well it certainly wasn’t intended on a personal attack on anyone affiliated with the UFC or even an attack on the UFC. What my desired effect was shining a light on something that I considered pretty excessive when you’re literally talking about health and safety relating to COVID-19 and health and safety when it relates to fighter safety.
The UFC made its return on May 9th at the Vystar Veteran’s Memorial Arena in Jacksonville, Florida. The organization had another event there last night and will close out the three-show Florida run this Saturday. The UFC had to submit a COVID-19 safety protocol proposal to get the Florida Athletic Commission to agree on hosting the events.
“We know combat athletes are literally laying their lives on the line for their sport. To have a dynamic in which, not only the fighter but the manager, trainer and affiliates of the fighter are prohibited from commenting or complaining or criticizing health and safety of their particular sport. If you support the fighter then you’re offended by that dynamic.”
White got wind of Espinoza’s words and fired back at the UFC 249 press conference.
“That’s not true. First of all, there’s something in the contract about disparagement. There’s a disparagement clause in there that’s in all our contracts. Isn’t that creepy little f#%ker a lawyer? Isn’t that creepy little f%$king goofball a lawyer?
“Does he not know what disparagement means? If you disparage the company? I’m not even a f*&king lawyer, and I know the answer to that question. It’s disparagement. It would be like if you came out and said, ‘They never tested me for the coronavirus’ But if you came out and had something critical to say about the testing that was true, that wouldn’t be disparagement.”
Still, Espinoza feels that this clause is unjust especially for an athlete that is merely trying to feed his family through his athletic passion.
“I mean, imagine if you had a clause in NFL contracts which said as long as you play in the NFL, you cannot criticize the NFL’s safety and health guidelines and you cannot suggest that the NFL’s safety protocols could use some improvement. If that happened in the NFL or the NBA, there would be widespread outrage, but in this case because it’s combat sports somehow people are willing to look the other way.
“Well if you don’t like it don’t sign it, well they shouldn’t have to make the choice. It shouldn’t be a choice between earning a living making some money pursuing your chosen sport and being prohibited from speaking out on things that you might not believe are safe.”
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Espinoza is taking the long high road in returning live combat sports back to television. Will he be critical if he sees anomalies occurring that can negatively impact the athletes of any sport?
“It wasn’t an intention to attack the UFC. I think it was supporting fighters and making sure that the fighters like most members of society have the right to speak up when their health and safety are threatened. I think that’s a right that we all should have and in most cases we all do have.”