Yahoo! Sports Special: UFC Cannot Condone Sexual Harassment

June 4, 2011
19 Comments

The following article was written by Kevin Iole and was originally published Friday on Yahoo! Sports, a content partner of MMAWeekly.com. The views expressed in it do not necessarily reflect those of MMAWeekly.com or its staff.

In 2007, as he was announcing new guidelines that would cover player conduct, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell spoke words that Ultimate Fighting Cham, pionship president Dana White needed to hear.

If he had heard them, former UFC light heavyweight champion Quinton “Rampage” Jackson might not have sexually harassed a female reporter during an interview after UFC 130 on May 28 in Las Vegas.

If White had taken heed of Goodell’s dead-on-the-money words, his company would not have looked the other way when one of its fighters at UFC 127 repeatedly used a derogatory term used to describe homosexuals.

UFC broadcaster Joe Rogan

UFC broadcaster Joe Rogan

And, had White bothered to have thought about establishing personal guidelines for his employees, his highly popular television analyst, Joe Rogan, would not have referred to Yahoo! Sports mixed martial arts blogger Maggie Hendricks as a part of the female anatomy.

In announcing a suspension of Adam “Pacman” Jones in 2007, Goodell made clear that the league would no longer tolerate outrageous conduct by its players.

“It is important that the NFL be represented consistently by outstanding people as well as great football players, coaches, and staff,” Goodell said. “We hold ourselves to higher standards of responsible conduct because of what it means to be part of the National Football League. We have long had policies and programs designed to encourage responsible behavior, and this policy is a further step in ensuring that everyone who is part of the NFL meets that standard.”

Jackson miserably failed to meet any standard of decency when he put his face near reporter Karyn Bryant’s breasts following his win over Matt Hamill at UFC 130 on Saturday and said he would like to “motorboat” her. When Bryant told Jackson that she is partly of Jamaican descent, he responded by saying, “Well, Jamaican me horny.”

Apparently that’s the point where everyone was supposed to yuk it up and talk about what a funny guy old “Rampage” is. Except, it wasn’t funny, because it was the dictionary definition of sexual harassment. Instead of laughing, we should have been outraged.

Bryant brushed it off and insisted she wasn’t bothered by it, but the excuse that it was just “Rampage being Rampage” doesn’t cut it. Nor does it matter how Bryant felt, as the many Jackson apologists who have since posted on Internet bulletin boards have alleged. It is already difficult for women to compete on equal footing with men as sports writers and Jackson’s sexual overtones simply made it worse.

Bryant somehow managed to trivialize the situation when she later tweeted to Jackson that she is happily married and not looking for any “side action.” Then, almost unbelievably, she added, “If he sez I can creep tho I’ll holla”

This, though, is not and should not be about Bryant, who was the victim. It is about Jackson’s boorish behavior, about an out-of-control fighter having no boundaries and not being reeled in by an organization that is fighting desperately for mainstream acceptance.

There is little doubt that Jackson, whose off-the-cuff, irreverent humor has helped make him one of the world’s most popular fighters, was attempting to be funny and wasn’t trying to sexually harass Bryant. Words, though, have consequences and there are plenty of women journalists who are extremely uncomfortable being anywhere around Jackson given his history of making sexual overtures toward them, jokingly or not.

Zuffa, the company that owns both the UFC and Strikeforce, brought its more than 300 fighters to Las Vegas last month for its annual “Fighter Summit,” in which it takes a day-and-a-half to lecture them on the evils of steroids and drugs, to counsel them on financial matters and gambling, and to help them cope with a whole series of life issues they may face as newly minted celebrities. It’s a wonderful, thoughtful session that other companies ought to emulate.

Nothing, though, was on the agenda about sexual harassment, but if White and UFC CEO Lorenzo Fertitta are serious about making the UFC a mainstream outfit, it’s going to need to be.

Can one even begin to think of the furor there would have been had an NFL player acted similarly in a postgame interview on ESPN with Erin Andrews or Suzy Kolber?

Hendricks correctly called out Jackson on his outrageous and unacceptable behavior and, for that, was greeted with a torrent of abuse from a fan base which failed to see how Jackson’s “kidding” might create a hostile and uncomfortable work environment for a woman assigned to cover MMA.

Among those ridiculing her was Rogan, the color analyst on the UFC’s television broadcasts. Other than Fertitta and White, Rogan quite possibly has done more than anyone else to help make MMA mainstream, but he made a huge faux pas when he blasted Hendricks in a post on the popular forum, The Underground.

On Wednesday, Rogan used the C-word when describing Hendricks and her writing. Rogan wrote that Jackson is “not a [expletive] dentist, he’s a cage fighter … ” Writing specifically about Hendricks later in the post, he wrote, “I don’t think [Jackson] should be given a free pass for some of the questionable things he does, but I do think that this woman in question is all kinds of [expletive].”

Read Kevin Iole’s full article on Yahoo! Sports.

UPDATE:

UFC president Dana White, several hours after Kevin Iole’s article was published on Yahoo! Sports, issued the following statement:

Joe Rogan recently made an offensive statement reflecting a personal opinion that does not represent the UFC in any way. I have addressed this directly with Joe.


  • rob da rippah

    people are too emotional about words, give rogan a break. But Rampage was a little out of line, i will agree with that lol

  • gnodeb

    Well, after riding this, Rampage and Rogan can be uncomfortable to express their feelings in public. What kind of harassment is that?

    Seriously, you don’t have to use F bombs to be rude. This man is rude on so many levels. If you have something about Rogan’s opinion, go to that forum and argue with him. There is no need to call him out where he can not respond to you.

    About Rampage. I’m under impression that reporters can be very very annoying. These days, reporters harassing the rest of the world… and this article is good example.

  • Goethe

    It’s funny, people, more specifically reporters, want cage fighters to have some british customs.

    Reporters are always willing to crucify others for the smallest things, Rogan, just like them, have every right to question and criticize reporters and their articles.

    About Rampage, he was just being Rampage, I also saw the video of the interview, and I think the best comment above nails it.

    “It’s SEXIST for anyone to imply this sort of behavior “sets women back.” These are adults. For someone to say a full-grown woman can’t handle sexual humor (that she did not mind) is suggesting she is of weaker moral fiber than men.”

    However, to be fair if I was Bryant was my sister, wife or something like that, I’d be at least a little upset with Rampage’s behavior.

  • ShockednAwed

    The problem is the grey-area that is sexual harassment. Nobody other than that reporter with Rampage’s head between her tits can call sexual harassment. If she didn’t feel harassed (she didn’t – if you’ve seen the clip, she’s loving it), then who was harassed? What’s the issue?

    This whole thing smacks of jealousy – bloggers jealous they don’t have ‘real’ media credentials (because you don’t need any qualifications to launch a blog and pretend you’re a writer); ugly chicks jealous nobody’s pretending to motorboard them; and ugly guys jealous that when they shove their faces into random girls’ tits, they get slapped.

    The only person who has any right to be upset here is Rampage’s wife. Anyone else upset about this needs a reality check.

  • ShockednAwed

    And another thing…

    Dana said, “Joe Rogan recently made an offensive statement reflecting a personal opinion that does not represent the UFC in any way.”

    So, if it’s acknowledged this is Rogan’s personal opinion, and not representative of the UFC, why did White need to “address(ed) this directly with Joe.”??

    I love that Rogans still got balls enough to call a spade a spade (or a c— a c—, in this case.) F– Dana if he tries to castrate him.

  • pooby

    If Rogan called a woman a “c—” (I’m guessing that was it), how is that sexual harassment? It may be rude, but that is not sexual harassment.

    This reminds me of people who are super sensitive about racism. Yes, there is such a thing as racism, but it isn’t automatically racism if a person of one race says something unkind to a person of another race. I’m white. If I call a black guy an asshole, I’m not racist. If I refuse to hire him for a job, strictly because he is black, I am racist.

    Sexual harassment is the same thing.

    • ShockednAwed

      It’s not. He says Rampage’s behavior during his recent interview equals sexual harassment (depite the reporter being depicted as the victim not seeing herself that way), while Rogan’s comments to an oversensative blogger (who had no real business making comment), were rude.

  • PappaK

    Holy f—. What kind of oversensitive people are we raising? These are CAGEFIGHTERS (and in the case of Rogan – a stand-up comedian), not golfers. It’s a little different. After a fight these guys are totally amped. Jeez. Yeah, both their comments were out of line… but are there really people losing sleep over this?? Stop watching if you’re bothered by ultra high levels of testosterone and guys trying to smash each others’ face in with a knee.

    • wonggfan

      Amen brother.

      But it has to be both ways. Viewers should not watch MMA expecting golf or tennis. But MMA insiders should stop saying that so and so is a classy athlete, UFC is safer than football, and UFC is going to be accepted by the mainstream.

      I get so fucking annoyed hearing that sort of shit.

      I would say more than 1/2 of the fighters are class acts. Really nice guys that tries very hard to bring professionalism to MMA.

      And there are retards…not gonna mention names but Tito is one of them.

  • phrankthetank

    This article is 100% about Joe Rogan trash talking online. The rampage interview is played up considerably. We’re talking about a guy who has humped reporters throughout the entire interview, and we’re supposed to think that THIS should be causing outrage? Mr. Lole, I suggest that you either comment on Jackson for anything you might deem sexual harassment, or leave him alone. You are using rampage as an attention grabber to attack Joe Rogan. While rogan’s statements may have been vulgar, he is just as entitled to make them as Hendricks is entitled to accuse rampage of sexual harassment. If you want to say something, say it. Don’t hide behind the story, that’s shoddy journalism. I give credit to Joe Rogan for being straightforward with his opinions and not greasy like you.

    • ShockednAwed

      See, I agree with you for the most part, but I don’t agree Hendricks is entitled to accuse Rampage of anything – she’s just some faceless person on a keyboard with an opinion, she’s not the person whose chest anyone had any interest in.

      • wonggfan

        So an MMA fighter should not care about how a faceless person feels? Try to swing that by Dana White. Funny thing is, MMA might be the only sport where president of an organization might agree with you.

        In other sports, comments like that would have received front page criticism.

        But who cares. MMA is a true blue collar sport. And I am a blue collar guy.

  • wonggfan

    I think these MMA groupie websites like MMAweekly try to enlarge this issue to get media attention.

    Look, MMA will never be as classy as basketball, which is less classy than say tennis or golf.

    “I am gonna make him swallow his own blood while punishing his face with an elbow to crush his will.” <–Typical UFC redneck fighter talk.

    MMA is by nature violent. It is more violent than boxing. And boxing has tough time remaining as a gentleman's sport.

    In no other sport (not even WWE) do you see commentators walking around cursing.

    So expecting Rogan to act professionally is retarded. Viewers expect Rogan to act that way. It is a true blue collar sport.

    So…it makes me laugh everytime these MMA insiders say that so and so is a classy fighter.

    No UFC fighter is classy.

  • afk

    at the end of the day, if the people involved in the conversation don’t mind what they’re talking about, nobody else should have the right to throw political rights issues into the mix.

    furthermore, if you want to talk about equality how about growing a pair and letting female reporters get their hands dirty. she uses her skillset to create interesting interviews that entertain people, who cares if part of that set is her breasts; she clearly does not.

  • afk

    and honestly, with all of the crazy shit that hollywood actors get away with. from drugs and assault to driving under the influence and racial slander. these people get away with everything but the kitchen sink and the media chooses instead to focus on rampage flirting with somebody while a camera happened to be on? it’s not like he was yelling “I WANT ME SOME PUSSY” after the fight in the octagon!

    just a bunch of jealous sports enthusiasts trying to hurt mma because it’s swallowing their pathetic ideas of what human competition should be.

  • http://www.bloodyfists.net/forums/index.php SHORT_BUS

    This whole thing has been blown out of proportion and the end result will be MMA fighters being less accessible to the “media” and fans because they don’t want to be bothered with unnecessary drama and bullshit.

    LOL at the Maggie Hendricks nonsense. She’s nothing more than a glorified Sherdog forum poster. Any one of us posting in the comments section of this article are just as much a “journalist” as she is.

  • backinshitup

    i would just like to say,when we go shoppin with our woman its shut the fuck up and look happy(yor in her world respect it,u knew whut u were gettin into) when my wife my love goes to my family’s home she knows whut she got herself into,she accepts it.when a combat news reporter gets shot while reportin at a warzone,u never see a yahoo “reporter” say we should sue the warring governments,no,because they knew that type of environment had those dangers.The fight maven.. shes got enough balls to handle herself with any of the boys of the ufc,and the little petite girl he dry humped, told her camera man to shut the camera off so her and “ram”page could finish it off.these r professional women who CHOOSE to work in that environment,they know whut to expect.kevin “rollie pollie” Iole needs to understand that as a man him coming to the defense of these women without their askin of him to do so,isn’t chivalrous its even more undermining,to this idea of respecting women as such.so let the boys be boys,and the girls be girls.geesh

  • saywhat

    Wow ! All you guys need to exit the 1960s and enter this century ! Wow !

  • dougiescot23

    I believe that Joe needs to watch his words more carefully. His choice of language was not appropriate, particularly as one of the faces of the UFC and someone who has done as much as anyone to bring the organisation mainstream credibility. Joe is generally a very considerate and sensitive guy. He previously used the word, “fag” on a regular occasion in his podcasts. His understanding and usage of the work was to describe someone who was weak or soft. He didn’t mean it as a homophobic slur, however after complaints from fans and listeners to his show he decided to retire the word from his vernacular. I believe the word he used in describing Hendricks was unfortunate, and he used it as if talking to friends. This is one of the dangers of social media, the ability to say things immediately that are on your mind, without first thinking things through and censoring yourself.

    Rampage’s actions, however, are another matter. The recurring quote that has been banded about on various message boards and blogs is that his actions were “Rampage just being Rampage” is excusing behaviour that shouldn’t be tolerated. His actions were sexist, unprofessional and if they had been displayed in an office environment he would have been up on a sexual harassment charge.

    The UFC is striving for mainstream acceptability. The argument that “these guys are cage-fighters” is also a cop out. Players in the NFL and NHL are hardly Quakers when it comes to participating in violent acts, yet they have the ability to censure themselves and act in a professional manner when interviewed after a game. These guys are still testosterone-filled physical specimens yet are able to act in an articulate, polished manner. Rampage has a history of behaving in a sexually aggressive manner to female interviewees that dates back to his Pride days. He manhandles women in a way that would make Arnold Schwarzenegger blush.

    His actions are a disgrace to the UFC and he should be reprimanded for them.

    Rampage can be funny, accommodating and charming when he wants to. Quite simply he acts like a child when things don’t go his way, as exampled by his behaviour when he was coaching in the Ultimate Fighter. He throws his weight around like the classical school bully.

    His treatment of Ariel Helwani was a prime example of this. Can you imagine an NFL player responding to a reporter like that? No. Absolutely not. The league’s director of discipline would come down on them, like a ton of bricks for acting in such a disrespectful, unprofessional manner to a member of the media.

    I will admit that some of Ariel’s questions in the original interview were not Pulitzer Prize calibre journalism, but Rampage was obviously in a bad mood due to training camp. His answers were curt and it was obvious that he didn’t want to do the interview.

    Everyone can have a bad day at the office, so I don’t hold his reaction against him; however, his reaction afterwards when he met Ariel pre-fight was tantamount to bullying.

    I don’t dislike Rampage. When he wants to be, he can be very charismatic and charming and he is obviously a supremely talented fighter. It’s unfortunate that his ego is out of control and he feels as if he can act like he wants. I don’t buy the accusation that he was just “playing around” with Ariel. Yes, in parts he was joking with him, but in both the pre and post fight interviews there was an air of intimidation being perpetrated by Rampage that was just awkward to watch. It’s childish and when he displays these egotistical behaviours it is no wonder that he and Dana White have such a troubled history.