Just a few days after the Route 91 Harvest Festival shooting in Las Vegas, Dana White and his Ultimate Fighting Championship hosted UFC 216 at T-Mobile Arena.
UFC donated $1 million to the victims and first responders of the tragic event and hosted around 1,500 first responders at the fight, with White telling TSN, “I have 1,500-plus first responders coming to the fight on Saturday: police officers, firefighters, EMTs, medical staff. All people that were involved in saving people’s lives. And (we’re) probably going to have six or seven of the people that were shot here on Saturday night. This show is going to be unlike any show you’ve ever seen the UFC produce.”
While White and UFC’s sentiments were certainly on the right page, his words after the fact are not.
According to several sources, White asked Jason Aldean to perform the National Anthem prior to UFC 216. White claims Aldean’s “people” told him Aldean was too shaken up to perform.
Of course, Aldean ended up performing Tom Petty’s “I Won’t Back Down” during the cold open of “Saturday Night Live.” In an enclosed, safe environment not really open to the public.
White’s response was absurd, telling TMZ Sports, “His image was more important then coming back to Vegas and playing for the people who are his fans and who got shot watching him play. F*ck you Jason Aldean. Stay out of Vegas.”
White’s reaction and comments are a perfect divisive, uncalled for response during times like these in this country. It’s fear-mongering. It’s pandering. It’s taking the easy way out.
Many times last week I thought to myself– can Jason Aldean handle this? Can he step up and really be the face of this? Can he bring hope and healing to others, while he heals himself?
Aldean’s performance on SNL was a resounding yes, he can do this. Aldean didn’t look whole or healed while performing on live TV, but he didn’t look scared either. Performing on a political, contentious show in front of millions of people who probably don’t even know what Aldean looks like was the perfect place for Aldean to be. It caused SNL to get out of their Trump bashing ways for a few minutes, gave Aldean a safe place to perform and paid tribute to a legendary rock icon that happened to die just hours after the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history.
White also said he reached out to several country music acts and they all turned him down, “Those are people who buy your albums and none of you country music people could sing the anthem in front of survivors and 1st responders?”
There were probably a lot of country music fans at the UFC event, but there were even more non-country music fans watching SNL that needed to see what Aldean and this country music community are all about.
I hope Aldean won’t back down or let comments from White or anybody else get in his way of healing, because from what I’ve seen Aldean can handle this and country music needs him now more than ever.