Seven days after disturbing footage of UFC CEO Dana White slapping his wife at a New Year’s Eve party was released, parent company Endeavor Content is avoiding controversy.
Ari Emanuel’s silence on the matter has raised eyebrows around Hollywood as Endeavor’s CEO has been quick to stir up various scandals and misconduct over the years, calling Kanye West a “cartoonish … clown show” praising Hitler and previously urging the industry to shun Mel Gibson.” Even if it means sacrifices for their bottom line.”
So what’s behind the newfound fury to call out Emanuel’s bad behavior? Dealing with the White controversy could certainly affect Endeavor’s bottom line, considering that the UFC is the crown jewel of the entertainment company’s portfolio. In fact, the UFC is one of the biggest contributors to Endeavor’s growth, with the division posting $288.5 million in Q3 revenue. (Endeavor, which went public in April 2021, posted $1.4 billion in overall 3-quarter revenue.)
A top agent at a rival firm said, “I understand why Ari is not saying anything. “Look at what the UFC means to his business. It’s not like losing a big client. His calculus is, ‘Do I want to say something and fuel it? Or do I not fuel it and hope the flame goes out?’
In the immediate aftermath of Jamal Khashoggi’s assassination in 2017, that flame only intensified, prompting Emanuel to act. At the time, the Hollywood powerbroker felt pressure from the Saudi government to return a $400 million investment as several clients threatened to jump ship if the company sat idly by. But in White’s case, there have been few public calls for Emanuel to address the violence, despite WME representing stars like Halle Berry and Rihanna, who have been vocal about domestic abuse. Still, some say ignoring the incident sends a troubling message.
“There is a danger of having a double standard, where athletes are held accountable for domestic violence and owners are not,” said Liz Roberts, CEO of Safe Horizon, the nation’s leading victim support organization. “There needs to be some accountability and that is setting a consistent standard. It’s a moment to really stand up and say, ‘No, that’s not what we’re doing anymore.’
A spokeswoman for Endeavor declined to comment for this article.
While Hollywood has publicly distanced itself from all forms of scandal in recent years, the Netflix-Dave Chappelle contratmes could change the course of how high-profile companies handle scandals. In October 2021, groups such as GLAAD condemned Chappelle’s Netflix special “The Closer” for being anti-trans. Despite growing calls to do something, Netflix CEO Ted Sarandos defended the comedian and the special. The controversy eventually died down with a sparsely attended protest at Netflix headquarters.
Emanuel himself is no stranger to missteps, once accusing former agent Sandra Epstein of saying, “Black people don’t swim,” regarding Epstein’s pressure to send client Wesley Snipes a script about Navy SEALs. (Emanuel denied the allegations, and the agency settled with the agent for seven figures.) And while White apologized for the New Year’s Eve incident that took place in the VIP section of a Cabo San Lucas nightclub, he also faced controversy. In the past. In 2018, White hired former NFL player Greg Hardy, who was convicted of assaulting and threatening an ex-girlfriend (Hardy appealed, and the case was eventually dropped.)
For its part, TBS didn’t kill off its upcoming reality series on White with the now-unfortunate title “Power Slap: Road to the Title.” Instead, it debuted a week from January 11 to January 18.