This past week we heard news of Jon Jones testing positive for cocaine in a pre-UFC 182 drug test, resulting in an admission from Jones bound to a promise to undergo rehabilitation before he returns to the octagon.

Due to the particularly scandalous nature of the substance involved, I expected the critical salvo from fans to force both Dana White and Jones’s biggest sponsor, Reebok, away from the champ. Recent history tells us that the sponsors are fickle when it comes to scandal. Take, for example, Jones’s media day scuffle with Cormier and the fact that Nike, Jones’s then sponsor, immediately canceled their deal with Jones after the incident. Just as well, UFC President Dana White is known for his volatility concerning his relationships with the fighters; poor performances, PEDs, and setbacks have kindled his anger and damaged his disposition toward UFC players on numerous occasions (e.g., the Renan Barao fiasco from this last year).

However, this time surprisingly both Jones’s sponsor and boss have adopted a stance of unhedged, compassionate support for the champion.

“We’re worried about Jon Jones, the human being, the person. We’re not worried about the image of the sport or any of that right now. The guy is a human being and he needs help. I applaud him and we support him,” said White, according to an article published this week by MMAWeekly.

“We commend Jon for taking the necessary steps to address the issue, and we will support him in any way we can. The status of Jon’s relationship with Reebok has not changed,” stated Reebok, according to ESPN’s Darrel Rovell.

“I applaud him?!” “We will support him?!” I never thought a professional’s drug addiction would tease out such solidarity from the purse. Remember back in 2009 when olympian Michael Phelps was suspended three months and removed from cereal boxes just because a photo was released of him smoking a bong? (By the way, the hindsight of that debacle seems all the more ridiculous as I write this in Denver.) I was flattened when I heard these quotes, which not only convey support, but also lack any portents of warning: “We support him…for now,” and such.

Frankly, it’s refreshing. Usually, when faced with these problems, promoters will either distance themselves or try to spin or mitigate the impact of the scandal via verbal jiu-jitsu that often only makes things worse. If there’s any spin at all here, it’s being bred by the positivity of White and Reebok, whose (maybe ostensibly) honest and open sympathy with the champ mark a smart way of handling a PR grenade–that is, falling on it, muffling it. Now, instead of being seen as leaf-in-the-breeze capitalists who run at the first sign, these entities can seem heroic and human. Of course, both have probably calculated this perception, just the same as they would have calculated the need to distance themselves from the champ. But the fact that they chose to embrace positivity in their reactions to the cocaine news is still laudable, since this outreach constitutes an enfilade of risk for both parties (for instance, it’s possible that the rehab won’t work or that Jones’s addiction will worsen).

Earlier this week I wrote about how Jones needs to be vulnerable in order to win the public’s worship. Although a coke addiction wasn’t exactly what I had in mind, I think he is doing the right thing in keeping the news in the open. Who knows? Maybe he’ll come out of this as an avid anti-drug campaigner, visiting rough neighborhoods, doing a speech tour, becoming the face for overcoming addiction. Like I said before, he needs a cause to become a cultural hero. Maybe that will be his first step.

 

 

About The Author

Paul French
Staff Writer

Paul French is a martial arts enthusiast currently residing in Cloudcroft, N.M. He's the former Managing Editor for the literary magazine, Puerto del Sol, and has had poetry published in Word Riot, Harpur Palate and Slipstream. Paul has trained in Karate, Muay Thai, Taekwondo and Jiu-Jitsu.