February 2021 is now here and as usual, the deluge of obligatory Black History Month corporate focus is upon us.
However, now that the world has undergone the tumult of the last protest movement in the wake of the murders of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, new corporate sports players have entered the BHM space.
Namely, the Ultimate Fighting Championships (UFC).
On February 1st, the mixed martial arts organization announced the launch of its month-long celebration of Black History Month.
According to the organization, this new campaign will “commemorate” Black History Month by acknowledging the achievements made by African American and Black UFC athletes throughout the organization’s history.
Through highlighting the personal stories of African American and Black UFC athletes, past and present, the UFC is attempting to celebrate their significance in promoting and growing the UFC and the sport of mixed martial arts.
Things That Make You Go Hmm
According to the UFC, in addition, numerous top-ranked African American and Black UFC athletes will headline three of the four events produced at UFC APEX in Las Vegas during the month.
This includes Alistair Overeem, UFC welterweight champion Kamaru Usman, former UFC heavyweight title challenger Derrick Lewis and UFC heavyweight Curtis Blaydes.
UFC president, Dana White, was extremely vocal about his support of Donald Trump. He was less vocal about denouncing Trump’s categorization of African and Black-led countries as “shitholes”.
Keeping that in mind, the disingenuous nature of having Black fighters headline 3 of the 4 bouts during the month of February couldn’t be less transparent from a UFC content subscription or pay-per-view strategy.
Tyron Woodley’s Island
In addition, when former UFC welterweight champion, Tyron “The Chosen One” Woodley stood up for Michael Brown, who was shot in the back by police in his native Ferguson, Missouri, he was labeled a race-baiter by a large slew of loyalist UFC fans.
In addition, when he showed support for his fellow Black fighters by pointing out the disparities in pay scale for Black champions, he was denounced as a crybaby.
When he wore Black Lives Matter gear, and donned a “Make Racists Catch The Fade Again” hat, during the lead up to hit fight against racist heel Colby Covington he answered each question with “Black Lives Matter”.
Although he lost the fight, he was left alone on an island for one not supported ideologically by the organization or joined by his fellow Black fighters.
Because if the tone is set that an organization’s head supports a racially insensitive U.S. President and racially insensitive fighters, why would a Black fighter on the UFC roster put their career on the line to stand with Woodley.
What Would Adam Silver Do
The UFC could learn a lot from the NBA.
Instead of abandoning LeBron James and the other leaders of the NBA’s product, the organization embraced the discussion.
In turn, Commissioner Adam Silver’s leadership shone through as the great compromise set into the politics of the sports organization.
James was not the Kaepernick level albatross around the neck of the sport like the NFL had for football.
Instead, the proactive approach replete with player stances via social justice symbols on their jerseys, the hardwood bathed in Black Lives Matter and a collective kneeling during the national anthem made the NBA a players first league.
With all of it revenue versus fighter compensation issues, the UFC never took that stance, instead, aligning with the greatest divisive U.S. President in history.
Although the UFC is trying to take the high ground this Black History Month, its efforts sit firmly in the pander zone keeping the organization as tone deaf as ever.
Sadly, unlike its company tagline this is hardly “as real as it gets”.