weather icon Clear

Aldean ignores UFC’s White, visits Las Vegas shooting victims at UMC

Updated October 9, 2017 - 12:06 am

Country music superstar Jason Aldean didn’t listen to UFC boss Dana White. And some hospitalized victims of last week’s mass shooting in Las Vegas are grateful.

White was furious that Aldean turned down the opportunity to participate in the UFC’s ceremony honoring victims and first responders on Saturday night at T-Mobile Arena and instead appeared on “Saturday Night Live.”

“(Expletive) you, Jason Aldean,” White told the Las Vegas Review-Journal after UFC 216. “And stay out of Vegas, (expletive).”

Aldean was onstage at the Route 91 Harvest festival Oct. 1 on the Strip when Stephen Paddock opened fire from the Mandalay Bay, killing 58 people and injuring almost 500 others.

But Aldean came back to Las Vegas anyway. Instead of going to T-Mobile Arena, on Sunday he went to University Medical Center, which announced the visit in posts on Facebook and Twitter.

The Facebook post stated: “Our extreme gratitude to Country Music Star Jason Aldean for visiting UMC today. Jason spent time with our patients who were critically injured during the Las Vegas shooting. His visit helped heal hearts and cheer those who were wounded in this tragedy. #vegasstrong.”

UMC, which has Southern Nevada’s only Level I trauma center, received 104 patients in the hours after the shooting, and more victims were later transferred to the hospital from other medical centers that couldn’t handle such severe injuries.

Aldean began the SNL episode with a brief statement. “I’m Jason Aldean. This week, we witnessed one of the worst tragedies in American history. Like everyone, I’m struggling to understand what happened that night and how to pick up the pieces and start to heal. So many people are hurting. There are children, parents, brothers, sisters, friends — they’re all part of our family. So I want to say to them: We hurt for you, and we hurt with you. … But you can be sure that we’re going to walk through these tough times together, every step of the way, because when America is at its best, our bond and our spirit, it’s unbreakable.”

He and his band then launched into a cover of “I Won’t Back Down,” which served as a tribute to both the victims of the Las Vegas shooting as well as Tom Petty, who died Oct. 2.

Jason Aldean’s wife, Brittany, on Sunday posted to her Instagram account a photo of the couple with Mandalay Bay in the background. The post read: “Feels surreal being back in Vegas today. Visiting some of the strongest people we have ever met… fighting the toughest battle of them all… for their lives. You have helped us try to begin to start the healing process by seeing the strength each one of you have. Thank you for today. We will never forget. #vegasstrong.”

White decided early in the week to proceed with Saturday night’s UFC 216 event as planned, though MGM Resorts International officials didn’t decide to officially go ahead with the event until Wednesday.

“We have to do this,” White said of the thought process. “Vegas can’t shut down because of this (expletive) coward.”

UFC officials started planning a ceremony for the event and began distributing tickets to 1,500 first responders. Several victims also were invited and honored.

“One of the things I was going to do is have Jason Aldean come in,” White explained. “These were his fans. People came in from all over the country to see him. People from Canada, everywhere. I saw one person was from Alaska. These people were there to see this (expletive) sing. I called him and said, ‘This is what we’re doing. We’re going to have 1,500 first responders and your fans who were actually shot that night at our show and honor them.’”

White said Aldean’s manager explained Aldean had been too affected by the incident and wouldn’t be able to perform anytime soon.

“The guy tells me, ‘No, he’s too (expletive) up. He might never perform live again,’” said White, who learned of Aldean’s SNL performance during UFC 216. “What am I going to say? I understand that.”

White said he was told Aldean has been bothered by disparaging comments about the fact he just ran off the stage without saying anything. He said the notion is preposterous, and he was told by several concertgoers the fact Aldean ran offstage saved lives, because it alerted people the situation was real and not part of the show.

This wasn’t the first time the comedy series has used its “cold open” to musically address an issue. On Sept. 29, 2001, the first episode following the Sept. 11 terror attacks, Paul Simon began by singing “The Boxer” surrounded by first responders and then-Mayor Rudy Giuliani. Kate McKinnon opened the Nov. 12, 2016, episode as her Hillary Clinton character, performing Leonard Cohen’s mournful “Hallelujah.” Her performance was also a tribute to Cohen, who died Nov. 7.

While Aldean’s performance was seen by 6.8 million viewers on television and another 1.7 million on the show’s YouTube channel as of Sunday evening, the studio and the live crowd were much smaller than he would have encountered at T-Mobile Arena. Approximately 250 seats are scattered throughout “Saturday Night Live’s” Studio 8H, only a couple of dozen of which would have been in Aldean’s direct line of sight.

Ben Fowlkes, a columnist for the USA Today-owned MMAJunkie.com, summed up his feelings about the controversy to his 42,000 Twitter followers: “The UFC struck just the right tone with its tributes. Then Dana White had to go and get all Dana White about it.”

Still, White believes Aldean did the late-night NBC show to help silence any critics.

“You know why he did ‘SNL?’ Because he’s all bummed out about the people talking (expletive) and what these guys do ‘SNL’ for is as a platform that when you (expletive) up or you make a mistake, you go on there,” White said. “So it was more important to him to go on ‘SNL’ and improve your image than to come to Las Vegas in front of your fans and the people who helped save lives that night at the concert?

“That (expletive) goes and does ‘Saturday Night Live.’ It makes me sick.”

White said he was also turned down by several other country music acts. Eventually, Everlast agreed to participate in the ceremony.

He performed “America the Beautiful” in the cage as several victims and first responders were honored.

“I called Everlast, and the dude was honored,” White said. “He almost started crying.”

According to White, It was only the second time the UFC has had a patriotic ceremony to kick off a show. He said the last time was after the Sept. 11 terrorist attack in 2001.

Contact Adam Hill at ahill@reviewjournal.com or 702-277-8028. Follow @adamhilllvrj on Twitter. Review-Journal staff writers Chris Lawrence and Cailyn Brown contributed to this story.

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.
Covering The Cage Videos
Dana White signs four fighters to the UFC - Video
Four fighters were put under contract with the UFC following their performances at Dana White's Contender Series on Tuesday night at the UFC Apex in Las Vegas.
Contender Series fighters react to being signed to the UFC
After making history as the first batch of winners to all earn contracts following their performances at Dana White's Contender Series, the fighters react to making it to the UFC.
Dana White signs all five winners at Contender Series
For the first time in the three-season history of Dana White's Contender Series, every winning fighter earned a UFC contract. Maki Pitolo, Joe Solecki, Antonio Trocoli, Hunter Azure and Jonathan Pearce impressed the UFC brass and were awarded contracts by the UFC president.
Jones says he was confident he secured a win over Santos at UFC 239 - Video
UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones continued his reign by taking a split decision victory over Thiago Santos at UFC 239. He discusses the close call and entertains the idea of a trilogy bout with Daniel Cormier. (Heidi Fang/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
UFC 239 recap: Jones and Nunes retain their titles - VIDEO
Jon Jones and Amanda Nunes both retained their titles at UFC 239. Jones took a decision over Thiago Santos in the main event and Nunes scored a first-round knockout of Holly Holm. Jorge Masvidal also made promotional history on July 6 by scoring a 5-second knockout over Ben Askren. (Heidi Fang/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Amanda Nunes on her win over Holly Holm at UFC 239 - Video
Amanda Nunes talks about continuing her reign as a two-division champion in the UFC after defeating Holly Holm with a head kick in the first round of their title bout at UFC 239. (Heidi Fang/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
UFC 239: Masvidal makes UFC history with 5-second knockout - Video
Jorge Masvidal discusses his history-making knockout of Ben Askren at UFC 239 and makes his case for a shot at the welterweight title next. (Heidi Fang/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Fighters at UFC 239 react to the 7.1 earthquake - Video
Fighters at UFC 239 talk about what they experienced when the 7.1 earthquake was felt in Las Vegas on Friday night. (Heidi Fang/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
UFC 239 Ceremonial Weigh-in Staredowns - Video
All fighters competing at UFC 239 on July 6 at the T-Mobile Arena faced off against each other one last time before their bouts take place. In the main event, Jon Jones will put his light heavyweight belt on the line against Thiago Santos. In the co-main event, Amanda Nunes will look to continue her reign as the women's bantamweight champion when she takes on Holly Holm.
UFC 239: Jon Jones says he wants to make a statement - VIDEO
Prior to UFC 239, UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones says he's trying to challenge himself, set his own records to establish his legacy and explains how he's become comfortable with where he is in his career. He will put his title on the line in the main event against Thiago Santos. (Heidi Fang/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
UFC 239 Official Weigh-in Results
All 24 fighters competing at UFC 239 on July 6 at the T-Mobile Arena made weight at the official weigh-in at the New York-New York hotel-casino on Friday. The main event features UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones putting his belt on the line against Thiago Santos. (Heidi Fang/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
UFC 239 Preview: Jones vs. Santos
Prior to UFC 239, the Review-Journal's Adam Hill and Heidi Fang break down the main event between Jon Jones and Thiago Santos for the light heavyweight title, the co-main championship tilt between Holly Holm and reigning bantamweight queen Amanda Nunes, and preview a feature bout between Ben Askren and Jorge Masvidal. (Heidi Fang/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
UFC 239 media day: Masvidal says he has faced tougher competition than Askren
Ahead of facing rising UFC welterweight Ben Askren, promotional veteran Jorge Masvidal says he's faced tougher opponents in the past. Askren says don't be shocked by his approach to the fight at UFC 239 on July 6 at the T-Mobile Arena. (Heidi Fang/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
UFC 239 open workouts: Jones thanks fans for support through his dark times
At UFC 239 open workouts, light heavyweight champion Jon Jones thanked fans for their support during his "controversial moments" and says he wants to be more active through 2020. His challenger Thiago Santos says he will "shock the world" on July 6 and be the new division champion. (Heidi Fang/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
UFC 239 open workouts: Holm wants to shock her naysayers
Holly Holm will look to reclaim the UFC women's bantamweight title when she faces two-division champion Amanda Nunes in the co-main event of UFC 239 at the T-Mobile Arena on July 6. (Heidi Fang/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
White: I'm looking for different things on this show - VIDEO
UFC president Dana White spoke with media following the second episode of the third season of his show "Dana White's Contender Series". He explained why he signed the two fighters he did after their performances and discussed the heat he's taking for not signing Brendan Loughnane last week. (Heidi Fang / Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Weili Zhang seeks UFC belt, history

The 30-year-old could become the first Chinese fighter to win a UFC title when she faces Jessica Andrade for the women’s strawweight title on Saturday