UFC sponsor condemns homophobic comments

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A major sponsor of the Ultimate Fighting Championship mixed martial arts events has complained to organisers about homophobic comments made by competitors and staff.

Drinks company Anheuser-Busch said in a statement: “We’ve communicated to the UFC our displeasure with certain remarks made by some of its fighters, and they have promised to address this. If the incidents continue, we will act.”

The company, which owns Budweiser, said it “embraces diversity and does not condone insensitive and derogatory comments rooted in ethnicity, race, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, disability, etc.”

As UFC continues to gain exposure in the US, Bud Light became a sponsor of the fights on pay-per-view and TV broadcasts, but according to Ad Age, the sponsor may take unspecified action if homophobic and sexist comments continue to be made.

Ad Age points to a letter this year from the National Center on Domestic and Sexual Violence to state lawmakers asking them to keep a ban on professional mixed martial arts in that state: “We believe that the UFC contributes to a culture of violence against women, and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.

“Children, in particular, should not be exposed to the homophobic, misogynistic and violent language that has been permitted by the UFC.”

Incidents include a video linked to from the website unfitforchildren.org, which opposes prime time UFC broadcasts, where UFC fighter Quinton “Rampage” Jackson encourages Japanese fans who do not speak English to repeat phrases including: “I’m a fag.”

Another clip shows UFC President Dana White questions a journalist’s source for a story on him and calls the source a “pussy and a faggot”.

The UFC told Ad Age: “With over 425 athletes on our roster, there have unfortunately been instances where a couple athletes have made insensitive or inappropriate comments. We don’t condone this behavior, and in no way is it reflective of the company or its values.”

In 2008, UFC competitor Shad Smith became the first openly gay fighter in the sport when he revealed his sexuality in a New York Times interview.

According to the article, Smith entered his first fight in 2000 shortly after his release from prison, where he was serving time for carjacking.