So, Where Exactly Does ESPN Stand On Domestic Violence?

Kevin Hageland
December 06, 2018 - 4:17 pm
Greg Hardy

(Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

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There have been two sports-based man on woman violence stories over the past week.

One has been impossible to miss, while the other may have flown under your radar.

Both involve former NFL players, Greg Hardy and Kareem Hunt. That’s right – while Hardy hasn’t played in the NFL since 2015 (unfortunately, for the Cowboys) I’ll go ahead and say Hunt has seen his final play in the NFL too.

So, what does ESPN have to do with all of this?

I suppose that’s what I’m asking; how does ESPN feel regarding man on woman violence?

The obvious answer would be they are against it … right?! When a video of Hunt, the former Kansas City Chiefs running back, pushing a woman and then kicking her while she was on the ground came out, personalities across the network bashed Hunt and lauded the Chiefs for cutting him (though they do still employ Tyreek Hill, so don’t give that franchise too much credit). Jason Witten, himself a victim of domestic violence who also started the SCORE Foundation, ran down Hunt on Monday Night Football.

Bravo ESPN, well done.

… Except

Less than 96 hours after turning its full ire against Hunt, ESPN accepted the UFC debut of Greg Hardy on the first card the mixed martial arts giant will run on the network’s new streaming service (ESPN+).

And the network is already promoting the hell out of Hardy.

The Jan. 19, 2019 card at the Barclays Center will be a very important show for both the UFC and ESPN as it is the first in their new 5-year, $1.5 billion pact. And they are loading it up. The UFC has already moved a pay-per-view main event (Henry Cejudo vs. T.J. Dillishaw for the Flyweight Title) to top the card, put Dancing with the Stars runner-up Paige VanZant on the show and now added Hardy.

Score! That’s a hell of a main event and a lot of big names, so surely the show will draw a big rating.

And that’s what matters, right?

I mean, who cares that Hardy was found guilty by a judge for assault and communicating threats after being charged with strangling an ex-girlfriend, throwing her into furniture and onto a bed of machine guns while threatening to kill her.

But that didn’t stop ESPN from making Hardy’s UFC debut on their first MMA card the top story on their website and a breaking news alert across the network. Their potential excuse, which was the same UFC President Dana White first rolled out when Hardy signed with the organization, could be – hey, that conviction was expunged from Hardy’s record. Or, as White said more succinctly, “Hardy paid his due.”

NO. HE. DIDN’T.

He paid his money, not his due.

A benefit of being a multi-million-dollar athlete is the ability to pay away troubles. Hardy, after his conviction, requested a jury trial – meaning the victim would have to testify in open court. Instead of doing that (an option many domestic violence victims would understandably want to skip), Hardy’s ex declined to testify and what do ya know, reached a financial agreement with Hardy around the same time. So, the former Pro Bowl defensive end was able to buy his conviction away.

If all that isn’t bad enough (and trust me, it is) … the promotion of this ESPN fight and the hypocrisy of the network gets even worse.

On the same card as Hardy, VanZant is fighting Rachael Ostovich.

Ostovich’s name was in the news last month as her husband is accused of assaulting her, leaving the fighter with multiple injuries and a protection order from a judge.

That’s right … believe it or not, the UFC and ESPN are promoting a card with a fighter accused and convicted by a judge of domestic violence (spare me the money-based legal loopholes) and a fighter who is allegedly a victim of domestic violence.

ON. THE. SAME. SHOW.

Seriously?!

What the hell are you doing ESPN? I already know what the UFC is doing because White said (yes, this is real) Ostovich is “totally cool” with Hardy fighting on the same card as her. Yeah, I’m sure a fighter who is 4-4 (and just 1-1 in the UFC) is totally cool with that and didn’t fear speaking out against an organization that turned against far bigger fighters in the past.

But, back to ESPN, surely they know all of this info now and have begun retreating on this promotion.

Nope, Hardy will stay on the card (so, they say) and his UFC debut is still the second lead story on ESPN.com’s MMA section right now.

So, what is it ESPN?

Are you only against man on woman violence when it doesn’t impact your bottom line?

Bash singular NFL players cause there are plenty more and the machine keeps running to bring you ratings? Awesome – but how bout you step up and take a real stand … one that really matters in the moment and not after the fact, one that could make a difference to Ostovich, one that could make a difference to a lot of victims out there and one that could potentially impact a business relationship.

But then again, I can think of 1.5 billion reasons ESPN will do … nothing … unless that Jan. 19 UFC card doesn’t deliver good ratings … then the network will have a real problem.