Over the past couple of years, the UFC has been scrutinized for its apparent connection to U.S. President Donald Trump, mainly due to UFC President Dana White’s longstanding friendship with Trump. However, while White’s friendship and subsequent endorsement of Trump at the 2016 Republican National Convention (RNC) emphasize the UFC president’s political stance, the promotion’s actual owners do not appear to share White’s political ideology.
Endeavor co-CEOs Ari Emanuel and Patrick Whitesell both made significant donations to the Democratic Party ahead of the 2018 midterms. According to The Hollywood Reporter, Emanuel gave a $120,400 in total donations while Whitesell gave $147,400, which account for some of the biggest donations from Hollywood.
Endeavor (formerly WME-IMG) purchased the UFC in 2017 for $4 billion, which remains the most expensive transaction for a company in sports history. Unlike former owners Lorenzo and Frank Fertitta, both of whom donated to the Republican Party in Las Vegas, Emanuel and Whitesell are known democrats. Emanuel openly supported Trump’s Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton, during the 2016 presidential campaign. His brother, Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel, was also President Obama’s Chief of Staff during his first term as president.
While Emanuel has historically been associated to the Democratic Party, he was once Trump’s agent during the businessman’s time on The Apprentice and maintained friendly relations with Trump during the presidential transition. Emanuel even met with Trump shortly after being elected president. Speaking to the Hollywood Reporter in 2016, Trump went so far as to call Emanuel a “very good friend of mine” whom he speaks to regularly.
Reports also suggest that Emanuel called Trump’s son-in-law and White House senior advisor Jared Kushner to complain about the Saudi regime and its brutal assassination and dismemberment of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi. Endeavor later announced its decision to pull out of a $400 million deal with a Saudi sovereign wealth fund.
Despite being viewed primarily as Hollywood executives, Emanuel and Whitesell are no strangers to politics. The Endeavor co-CEOs formed a federal political action committee (PAC) just 20 days after Trump was elected that was aimed at connecting their clients to elected officials and “developing actionable public policy solutions.”
”No matter what side of the aisle you sit on or where you live in the world, the call for meaningful and sustained civic engagement is louder than ever,” read a company memo released during the launch.
Endeavor has since partnered with organizations like UNICEF and Gun Safety to match their clients with specific causes and to increase political engagement.
Polls opened in all 50 states on Tuesday November 6 as millions of voters are expected to cast their ballots for congressional races to determine which political party will control the Senate and House. First polls will close at 6pm ET.