In a misguided attempt at self-promotion, UFC light heavyweight contender Rashad Evans compared his hands to the ones put on the alleged victims of the Penn State child sex abuse scandal during an open-to-the-public press conference held Wednesday in Chicago.
Evans faces Phil Davis in a contender’s bout airing live on Jan. 28 on Fox — the promotion’s sophomore event on broadcast television since signing into a seven-year, rumored $700 million deal with Fox Sports Media Group in August.
The former UFC champion made the comment just hours after former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky had been arrested and jailed again on new child sex abuse charges after two more alleged victims came forward to authorities.
“I guarantee you’ll be the first one to take a [wrestling] shot,” Evans told Davis. “Guarantee. Because I’m going to put my hands on you worse than that dude did them other kids at Penn State.”
Davis, a Penn State wrestling alumnus, lowered his head as the remark drew a mixture of cheers and jeers from attending fans.
The press conference was streamed live on the Internet, where tens of thousands of fans have tuned in to watch events like this in the past.
When SI.com reached Evans by phone on Wednesday, he said he would need to speak to his representation before discussing the incident. However, Evans didn’t return follow-up requests for comment. Davis also declined comment through a spokesman.
Zuffa, the UFC’s parent company, and Fox also declined to comment.
Emmily Bristol, a board member of the Nevada Coalition Against Sexual Violence, called Evans’ comment deplorable.
“As a survivor of sexual violence and someone who speaks out for survivors of sexual violence, it is absolutely unacceptable and never funny to joke about rape, molestation or talk about what happened at Penn State in that way,” Bristol said. “As someone who has been molested, I took [the comment] personally as an offense to me.”
Evans’ unsettling remark was the third time in a month that a UFC fighter has made public statements considered inappropriate for a professional athlete by people both inside and outside the sport’s circles.
On Wednesday morning, UFC bantamweight fighter Miguel Torres quickly came under fire when he tweeted about a “rape van” on Twitter.
“If a rape van was called a surprise van more women wouldn’t mind going for rides in them. Everyone like surprises,” wrote Torres, who followed up the tweet eight minutes later with another that said, “Too soon huh?”
Following a flourish of negative feedback from some of his 48,500 followers, Torres said he edited the original tweet an hour later.
Last month, former UFC light heavyweight champion Forrest Griffin was condemned by a contingent of Las Vegas-based parents and advocates against sexual violence when he tweeted that “Rape is the new missionary.”
– Loretta Hunt