Amid the scorched earth pogrom that has overrun the NFL attendant to the Ray Rice fiasco, there was some encouraging news that at least one head of a sports promotion once again proved that he can be trusted to handle the domestic violence issue properly—and do the right thing in the face of potential backlash.
UFC President Dana White reinstated light heavyweight Thiago Silva after all domestic assault–related charges against him were dismissed late last week. Silva was arrested in May after a SWAT team standoff at the gym owned by his wife’s lover, Pablo Popovitch. He was alleged to have threatened the boyfriend and pointed a gun into his wife, Thaysa’s, mouth. He was charged with attempted murder, kidnapping, resisting arrest, and a host of domestic assault charges. At the time, White terminated Silva’s contract, going on record to say Silva would “never fight in the UFC again.”
White explains on UFC Tonight the reason for his decision. Simply put, if ALL charges were dropped, “how can I not let the guy earn a living?”
For a sampling of the resistance, see the first 45 minutes or so of the MMA Hour, in which host Ariel Helwani interviews Silva after speaking with Luke Thomas on the matter (minutes 14–17). Helwani and Thomas are both superb and respected MMA commentators, of the highest level of integrity. Nevertheless, the moral panic of the moment colors their perspective of the Silva matter. Pay attention to Helwani’s parsing of the word acquittal and his taking of prosecutor-speak at face value, and Thomas’s use of a reality TV show to suggest that dropping of all charges isn’t dispositive of innocence and his conflation of reduction of charges and dropping of them. Absent from their discussion is any exploration of the issues in a light adverse to Thaysa Silva, such as that maybe she fled because her story was falling apart. Of course, it’s still too much to ask to broach the subject of rampant divorce-related restraining order abuse and false accusations, so Thomas and Helwani cannot be faulted there.
Starts at 14:30, ends at 16:30:
The line of questioning of Silva is also curious. Helwani asks Silva if he knows why his wife left the country. Of course, that’s a question Silva by definition cannot answer; that’s a question for the prosecutors. Moreover, one can’t help but be embarrassed for Helwani after he asks a defendant who had faced life just hours before if he had preferred the charges to stick until a jury could acquit him.
White has cut fighters for domestic violence before, such as Will Chope, and cut War Machine when his feral, unhinged wrath was being directed at men . . . and our president. With this decision, White has shown himself consistent. He kept top UFC Octagon Girl and brand ambassador Arianny Celeste on the roster after her 2012 domestic violence charges were also dropped. Of course, the Silva decision took far more courage, as true leadership means doing the right thing, whether it’s popular or not.
Charges dismissed means charges dismissed.