As soon as Nate Diaz hit "send" his fate was sealed.
If you missed it, Diaz delivered the following tweet on Thursday (tweet has since been deleted):
I feel bad for pat Healy that they took a innocent mans money and I think the guy who took the money is the biggest Fag in the world ..— Nathan Diaz (@NateDiaz209) May 16, 2013
It was only a matter of time before the UFC acted. No reference to the Urban Dictionary or what the slur means in Diaz’s world was going to prevent the UFC from handing down some sort of punishment.
On Friday evening the promotion acted, suspending Diaz 90 days and fining him $20,000. The fine, according to the UFC’s statement on the matter will be donated to charity.
The question now is, did the punishment fit the crime?
Let’s get the suspension out of the way first because that’s an easy one to tackle. A 90-day suspension for a fighter that last stepped into the Octagon on April 20 and received a 60-day medical suspension following that fight is pretty toothless. It looks good on paper, but the reality is that Diaz was almost certainly not going to fight in the next 90 days and if he was it was going to be at the tail end of those 90 days.
Now the fine, that’s another story. $20,000 for a fighter that pulled in $15,000 in his last fight is a huge chunk of change. If you don’t agree, please keep in mind that NBA superstar Kobe Bryant, who pulls down more than $300,000 a game was fined $100,000 for the same slur in 2011. Diaz is going to notice that $20,000 missing from his pay a lot more than Kobe missed his $100,000.
Diaz may not have meant the word as a homophobic slur, but that doesn’t excuse the fact that he used it. As a professional athlete he represents his employer, the UFC, an employer that is still fighting to make inroads in states where the sport is not legal. The UFC doesn’t need fighters handing ammunition to its detractors, something Diaz did when he hit "send" on that tweet.
Back to the question, did the punishment fit the crime?
Comparing the fine Diaz received to the one Bryant received; the punishment may be viewed as too severe. Don’t think that’s a mistake. The UFC needed to send a clear message to all of its fighters: Step outside the bounds of the code of conduct and the punishment will be swift and severe.
The UFC has drawn a line in the sand with Diaz’s fine and suspension; expect all fighters to take notice of the severity of the punishment.
For those of you that will say "worse things have been said in the past," please don’t use that argument. Those were the old days, prior to the written code of conduct. That was before the UFC joined the rest of the major professional sports in having such a code of conduct. The good old days are over, it’s a brave new world, and missteps are going to cost fighters time and money.
Was Nate Diaz used as an example by the UFC? Probably, but someone had to serve as the fall guy. Let’s hope the rest of the UFC roster took notice and that this is the last time we’re all discussing what was an easily avoidable situation.