Dana White in a Bud Light Super Bowl ad. Dana White in a Bud Light Super Bowl ad. (Bud Light.)

The last year has seen an incredible culture wars debate around Bud Light. That all started when they sent trans actress and influencer Dylan Mulvaney a case of beer with her face on it, and she promoted that in an April 1 Instagram post around March Madness.

That caused major right-wing backlash, even including Kid Rock shooting cans of the beer. But it saw other figures like Charles Barkley promoting Bud Light and LGBTQ+ rights in reaction to the backlash. And it even led to right-wing criticisms of figures like Travis Kelce appearing in unrelated Bud Light ads.

But now, a figure recently in the news for his refusal to condemn homophobic and transphobic comments from someone in his organization is appearing in a Bud Light Super Bowl ad. That would be UFC president Dana White, an executive often praised by right-wing figures.

White is (briefly) featured alongside Peyton Manning and Post Malone in an “Easy Night Out” ad released Tuesday (following previous “Easy to Sunday” and “Easy Rounds” ads this NFL season) that’s set to air during Sunday’s Super Bowl LVIII broadcast on CBS. That ad features “The Bud Light Genie.” And that genie’s granted wishes include giving one man a giant bicep and then sending him to the UFC fight he wished he was at, but on the weigh-in stage.

There’s logic to Bud Light featuring White here. The company just became the UFC’s “biggest-ever sponsor” in a deal signed in October (with that deal kicking in Jan. 1) to become the official beer of the mixed martial arts promotion. And White spoke out against Bud Light critics then, citing their job creation in North America and the money they’ve put into supporting families of law enforcement workers.

And White spoke up for Bud Light again in January. There, he told former Fox News host Tucker Carlson (who recently attended a UFC event alongside White and former U.S. president Donald Trump) “If you consider yourself a patriot, you should be drinking gallons of Bud Light.” So it would not be surprising to see him join the list of figures regularly seen in Bud Light ads going forward, including Manning (whose Omaha Productions has also helped create some Bud Light spots) and Malone.

But it is notable to see White personally featured in a Bud Light ad, especially given his recent comments after fighter Sean Strickland’s homophobic and transphobic rants at a UFC press conference. Strickland said things like “10 years ago, to be trans was a mental f***ing illness” and “Everything that is wrong with the world is because of f***ing you” (to a reporter who asked him about a homophobic social media post), and that led to backlash towards not just him and the UFC, but even broadcast partner ESPN.

After that, White refused to condemn Strickland’s use of the UFC’s platforms to spread that message. He commented that “People can say whatever they want and they can believe whatever they want.” That was a sharp contrast to his remarks around the two-week suspension the UFC handed fighter Matt Mitrione in 2013 for anti-trans comments about fighter Fallon Fox in an interview, with the UFC statement then saying “The UFC is a friend and ally of the LGBT community, and expects and requires all 450 of its athletes to treat others with dignity and respect.” And White’s lack of free speech absolutism at other points has been noted, particularly by reporter Ariel Helwani, who White has often banned and interfered with.

There isn’t necessarily going to be massive backlash to this particular spot. Given how that UFC-Bud Light deal was announced in October, any negative impact from it has likely already happened. And White’s role in this ad is pretty small, and there’s nothing explicitly political about anything in this commercial. But it is interesting that in less than 12 months, Bud Light has gone from being under fire for a small promotion (which didn’t even involve a TV spot of any kind) with a trans social influencer to including a figure like White, whose response to “10 years ago, to be trans was a mental f***ing illness” was “Free speech, brother,” in a Super Bowl ad.

[Bud Light on YouTube]

About Andrew Bucholtz

Andrew Bucholtz has been covering sports media for Awful Announcing since 2012. He is also a staff writer for The Comeback. His previous work includes time at Yahoo! Sports Canada and Black Press.