After a weekend of setbacks targeting UFC President Dana White for calling ESPN reporter Ariel Helwani “such a douche,” the network released a statement supporting Helwani on Monday.
“Ariel is a valued colleague and an outstanding MMA reporter,” reads a network statement to USA Today. “His record speaks for itself.”
Gina Carano controversy triggered White’s insult
The statement did not name White by name. ESPN and the UFC are business partners in which the network has exclusive rights to broadcast UFC pay-per-view events. ESPN also operates under the parent company Disney, which was at the center of the news that started the controversy between White and Helwani over the firing of Gina Carano.
How it all started
Disney’s Lucasfilm fired “The Mandalorian” actor and former MMA fighter Carano last week after she shared a social media post on an Instagram story comparing criticism of political views in the United States to the treatment of Jews under Nazi Germany.
“Jews were beaten in the streets, not by Nazi soldiers, but by their neighbors … even by children,” the post is read. “Because history has been edited, most people today are not aware that in order to get to the point where Nazi soldiers could easily rally thousands of Jews, the government first made their own neighbors hate them just for being Jews. it is different from hating someone for their political views. “
Carano is a vocal supporter of former President Donald Trump, who reiterated his false allegations that the November election was stolen and spot the use of masks in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. She shared the Instagram post under Trump’s prosecution in the U.S. Senate last week.
Helwani criticized Carano for referring to Nazi Germany
Helwani, one of ESPN’s most prominent UFC journalists and personalities, criticized Carano for his post. Helwani has covered Carano and interviewed her several times over the course of her career. He is Jewish.
“Obviously I’m very disappointed with what she wrote,” Helwani said in an Instagram video last week. “To be honest, I have not agreed with many things she has sent in the last year.
“This last post, which essentially compares to being a Republican in America or having a particular political view of being a Jew in Nazi Germany during World War II, is asinin. It’s a completely wild comparison to make …
“The Gina I knew back in the day was a very kind-hearted, warm soul. I just hate to see what happened. When she sent it – for me – it was a real failure. It was very disappointing.”
White on Helwani: ‘Such a shower’
White, a prominent Trump supporter who appeared several times on the campaign trail for the ex-president, Helwani chastised for his response during a Friday news conference ahead of UFC 258.
“We’re all making mistakes,” White told reporters. “For everyone to go in on her – I love how Ariel Helwani did it all about him. Such a shower.”
ESPN talent gathered around Helwani
As ESPN remained silent over the weekend, Helwani received public support from several of his colleagues on the network.
No amount of name calling changes as you are best at covering MMA and most importantly you are a good guy. Do not sweat it. We got you
– Jorge Sedano (@Sedano) February 14, 2021
. @arielhelwani is an amazing, passionate journalist who has done a ton to elevate and legitimize the fighting game. I can not imagine how frustrating it would be to approach his work with such professionalism and be met with disrespect and name calling. MMA still the wild wild west. https://t.co/B9W2knXxWM
– Sarah Spain (@SarahSpain) February 13, 2021
Former ESPN host Dan Le Batard took a more pointed approach with his former employer. Le Batard recently left ESPN after a lengthy tenure in disagreement over his ability to speak openly on topics beyond sports.
Neither White nor Helwani has responded to ESPN’s statement.
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