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Ronda Rousey’s Sandy Hook Conspiracy Tweet Highlights the UFC’s Social Media Problem

(“I drink coconut water because it’s the world’s greatest natural source of electrolytes. Plus, Obama has been putting cyanide in our tap water since March 2010. Open your eyes, people.” Photo via Esther Lin/Showtime)

By George Shunick

One of the more enjoyable aspects of MMA — and the athletes who participate in it – is that even as the sport has grown exponentially in popularity over the past half-decade, the personalities that comprise it have remained extraordinarily candid in their interactions with the general public. It keeps fighters down to earth relative to athletes in other sports — Chris Kluwe excluded — and creates a sense of community between the fans and fighters that is unique to MMA. Of course, every now and then, a fighter (or promoter) will take things a step too far.

Take Ronda Rousey. Just the other day she caught heat for saying that Georges St. Pierre, the most dominant champion in welterweight history and arguably the most complete fighter in the sport, was only famous because he was attractive and Canadian. After the ensuing outcry, Ronda clearly gave the matter a lot of thought and decided to be more conscious of what she said in public forums…and proceeded to tweet an “extremely interesting must watch video” suggesting the Sandy Hook massacre of 20 children and 6 adults in December was the product of a government conspiracy to push anti-gun legislation. Amidst a storm of criticism, she eventually took down the tweet hours later.

Let’s be clear: This is probably the single largest public relations blunder any prominent professional fighter has committed since Quinton “Rampage” Jackson lived up to his nickname. Rousey originally justified it by saying “I just figure asking questions and doing research is more patriotic than blindly accepting what you’re told.” Which is an interesting thing to say, considering she just blindly accepted what a YouTube video — presumably constructed by a reactionary paranoid living in his mom’s basement — told her, despite an overwhelming amount of evidence to the contrary.

I’m not going to bother debunking the delusional, callous and vile assertions of that video here. If you believe that the President ordered an elite team of assassins to kill 20 children or that the incident was entirely fabricated (conspiracy theorists can’t seem to decide which is the case, which shouldn’t be a surprise considering there’s a complete lack of evidence for either), there’s no hope for you. But those are the theories that Rousey is endorsing. She’s not just “asking questions”; by posting that video, she’s implicitly promoting the notion that Sandy Hook is a ploy by a tyrannical government. (While Jon Fitch also posted the same video, he immediately questioned its authenticity and readily acknowledged its fraudulence when confronted with evidence.)

But so what? This a country founded on free speech, right? For all you aspiring constitutional scholars out there in the comments section, that only means the government can’t prevent you from saying anything, and can’t punish you for saying almost anything. It doesn’t mean speech comes without consequences; just ask Miguel Torres. (More on him later.) Rousey has a platform — one she has willingly embraced — as an ambassador for her entire gender within the sport and for the sport itself. Her public statements don’t just reflect on her character or marketability, but on the character and marketability of the institution she represents as well. And she’s failed in that responsibility in a truly despicable manner. This isn’t just a joke in poor taste, this is something that has legitimate, harmful repercussions on people who deserve anything but.

Still, this is the price you pay for the UFC’s social media policy, or lack thereof. See, having fighters speak their minds, unfiltered by any mandatory restrictions, is a positive in the sense of accessibility it creates. But it swiftly becomes a negative when they cross a certain line. The problem is that line isn’t clearly defined. Two years ago, Miguel Torres was fired for tweeting a joke about rape. He was rehired soon after, but the point was clear — the UFC wasn’t going to tolerate any more rape jokes. (Well, unless you’re a former champion of the UFC’s glamour division and a reality TV star.) Torres didn’t heed the message, and was fired last year.

While Torres’s jokes were in bad taste and deservedly criticized, there’s no denying Rousey’s comments are worse. So she’s getting fired, right? At least fined? Of course she’s not; she’s headlining a pay-per-view in a month and she’s the face of women’s MMA. As much as the UFC might profess to care about what its fighters say, when it comes to disciplining them it comes down to what the fighter does for the company. There’s no set of rules or disciplinary actions to be taken in the event of a violation of a public conduct policy because there is no public conduct policy. Not only does this ensure that punishments will be meted out as Dana White — himself no stranger to PR disasters — sees fit, it ensures that these incidents will continue to happen because fighters aren’t given limits on what is acceptable public discourse from the company that could punish them for breaching those non-existent limits.

Obviously, this has to change. The UFC has to institute a clearly-defined personal conduct policy and enumerate the violations and the consequences if it wants to avoid further disasters like this. It’s only fair to the fighters to know what they can and can’t express in public, and it’s only fair that fighters who violate the same policies can be assured of receiving the same punishments. The openness of social media in MMA is a great thing, but there is absolutely nothing positive about Rousey’s recent comments. Are the outrage over this and the lies she’s helped perpetuate really worth finding out that Rousey has — like many athletes and, frankly, people in general — an exceptionally poor grasp of how the world actually works? It’s impossible to see how anyone could argue that.

When we say we have free speech in America, it doesn’t necessarily mean what we often think it means. You don’t have the right to say anything you want, whenever you want. While it’s true the government can’t censor your speech preemptively, you can still be punished in certain instances where society has concluded that the benefits of complete free speech do not outweigh the detriment of certain uses of speech. Shouting “fire!” in a crowded theatre is probably the most well-known example. It’s possible to be sued for libel or slander as well. No one is complaining about this; it’s fairly evident that certain restrictions are logical and morally sound.

But even in something as old as American law, we’re still trying to figure out just how to apply this principle. Perhaps it’s appropriate that as we come to define the consequences of speech in the fledgling medium of the internet, the fledgling sport that has seen its rise coincide with the rise of the World Wide Web must now come to terms with its own speech limitations, most notably within that medium. Instead of libel or death threats, however, the UFC must define a more nebulous set of standards, as much for the benefit of its fighters as for itself. At what point are we willing to sacrifice the access we possess to the fighters? At what point does their right to free speech become abridged? Ultimately, should they take the necessary steps, that will be the UFC’s decision. However, one thing is certain; if Miguel Torres’ offensive jokes were deemed inappropriate, then Ronda Rousey’s latest controversy is definitely beyond the pale.

Cagepotato Comments

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KennyNuncaMuere- January 19, 2013 at 7:10 pm
Also Ronda isn't stupid. She took magnet math classes in high school & she's a classically train musician who played first chair in a concert band. She's also an avid reader, song writer & she contributes to charities & things like that.
KennyNuncaMuere- January 19, 2013 at 7:06 pm
Everybody keeps coming up to me and saying,
‘Oh, do you think if you didn’t look such a way,
people would like you so much?’ I’m like, ‘Dude,
if GSP was butt ugly, you wouldn’t want to know
who he is so much.’
Ronda Rousey quote

Ronda was comparing GSP to herself. So if people say guys are Ronda fans because of her looks than they could also say girls are GSP fans because of his looks. She's trying to point out that looks may help popularity but it also takes more than that to grow a fan base.


she just blindly accepted what a YouTube video told her
Quote from the article

Ronda never said she accepted the video as the gospel truth. She just said that it was interesting.
Baxoje- January 17, 2013 at 4:36 pm
So basicly what the author of this article is saying is, Ronda Rousey is not and should not be able to voice her opinion about deaths that are already exploited in the media?? All she is doing is asking the obvious question of, why were there other persons being arrested and hauled off at the scene of the crime, why was the shooters mother being reported as a kindergarten teacher etc....Questions are never news worthy, the author of this article needs to read up on some US CONSTITUTION as well...Here's a question, why doesn't the UFC endorse CAGEPOTATO??? Because of uneducated people like George Shunick!
Hill-Billy- January 17, 2013 at 1:26 pm
I haven't seen the video and don't care about it.

But yeah Rhonda is stupid. We've know this for a long time. How does it hurt you in any way that she, or any other athlete tweeted a stupid thing. I'm pretty sick of all the 'righteous indignation' our media (and CP commentators naturally) show over every little thing athletes say and do. Who decided that in addition to fighting, playing ball or cycling these people have to be some sort of Gurus on the greater issues of morality, political knowledge, and common sense.

When did it become their job to tell us what to think and our job to make them into pariahs and even in some cases take away their job because they are a little bit wacky? Who cares that Rhonda thinks the government did Sandy Hook or 911 or that aliens kidnapped Elvis and JFK or what ever else?

Show me more pics of her being sexy, breaking arms, or both and my life will be better for it no matter what stupid thing she thinks or says.
rickards- January 16, 2013 at 10:52 pm
JUDOknowSHIT: "she said "interesting video" END OF FUCKING STORY."

people who post "interesting" videos like this one, are quite persuaded with what has been shown, and would like the rest of the world to "make up their own minds" on the whole situation. that's how all this misinformation is propagated -- from the flat-earth society, to evolution vs creation debates -- but it's all bullshit, and shouldn't even be discussed; unless otherwise you want to discuss confirmation bias, directing the misinformed, obsessive-compulsive disorders and mental illnesses.
fatbellyfrank- January 16, 2013 at 10:08 pm
She's a silly over exposed little girl with a great arm bar, Is anyone really surprised she comes across as dumber than dog shit?
DARKHORSE06- January 16, 2013 at 9:11 pm
Shes probably been hitting the bong a little hard in the 209.
Mr_Misanthropy- January 16, 2013 at 9:07 pm
I wonder if her pussy matches her cauliflower ears. Probably looks like it's chewing pink bubblegum.
jonjonesbentley- January 16, 2013 at 6:34 pm
Doesn't matter had sex.
JPfighter-DAMMA- January 16, 2013 at 4:53 pm
Things this article (and ensuing comments) proves:

1. Rousey has questionable judgment and could use some serious PR management.
2. This world is a fucked up place.
3. Humans are a fucked up species.
JUDOknowSHIT- January 16, 2013 at 3:33 pm
get the fuck over it. she didn't make the stupid goddamned video, nor was she "implicitly promoting" or agreeing with it. she said "interesting video" END OF FUCKING STORY. george shunick, stop making up bullshit and go do a fucking story on MMA you sensationalist prick. fucking stupid tabloid bullshit. go fuck yourself.
painvelasquez- January 16, 2013 at 2:10 pm
since when did CP change they're name to politics potato? rouseyz alwayz zaid zum ztraight up dumb shit,, zo thiz really doesnt zurprize me. fucc nate and nick diaz by the way.. juz thought id throw it in there...
knucklesamitch- January 16, 2013 at 1:21 pm
How did she even have time to post anything on twitter? She was supposed to be making my GODDAMN SANDWICH.
crappiefloper- January 16, 2013 at 12:38 pm
I swear to god, anytime DW takes his little bald father out of her cumguzzler she says something fucking retarded.
IronClad- January 16, 2013 at 12:34 pm
Could it be that CagePotato is finally getting off of Rousey's nuts!? About fucking time
The12ozCurls- January 16, 2013 at 11:53 am
Holy Shitballs! I have not seen this many red thumbs-down votes since the last Jon Jones article that was hijacked by nippletwist.
famousdav- January 16, 2013 at 11:38 am
Arm bar me baby! ;-)
rockhuddy- January 16, 2013 at 11:14 am
The government lies to us 24/7- I don't believe anything they tell me, and neither should you. Long live the Republic!
Fried Taco- January 16, 2013 at 11:03 am
Ronda is a ho - ax anyone!
sinnercain- January 16, 2013 at 10:50 am
dipsetkilla316- January 16, 2013 at 10:47 am
But Ronda is a dumb bitch who should just keep her mouth closed
dipsetkilla316- January 16, 2013 at 10:45 am
Little kids don't deserve that I wish there was some way to help the families throw this tough time
dipsetkilla316- January 16, 2013 at 10:43 am
I don't no I hope it's not true it's just so messed up the whole situation
dipsetkilla316- January 16, 2013 at 10:40 am
I just did some Research and I watched this 30 minute video on world star hip hop videos cause some one told me I should watch it, and the video had some strong evidence that Suggests that the government was involved in the sandy hook shooting I'm not saying I believe it, but I'm not saying I don't either. It's hard when some one shows u strong evidence to just say na that's bs.
2DaDeath- January 16, 2013 at 10:28 am
Typical dumb blonde.

Why did Rousey have sex with a Diaz? Cuz her teacher told her to do an essay.