We should demand better from Conor McGregor than lazy stereotypes

In a week in which racial insults were in sharp focus, the way The Notorious's views are treated by the lad media are a double-standard

BY Richard Chambers 16:54 Saturday 27 August 2016, 16:54 27 Aug 2016

Pic via Twitter (@UFC)

We have a problem with race in Ireland. That won’t surprise many of you following a week in which model Michelle Marie, this week’s curator of the @ireland Twitter account, was subjected to a whole host of bigoted abuse. Those attacks, however, came just days after one of Ireland’s chief proponents of racial stereotypes and epithets was heralded as a legend. That man is Conor McGregor.

The race problem I’m talking about is the double standard in how we react to the use of these outdated and often hateful tropes. McGregor has long earned his keep by being as outspoken and controversial as possible. He’s pretty good at it.

Remember when he called German opponent Dennis Siver a ‘Nazi’ and then later half-assed an apology?

How about his deplorably supremacist suggestion before his high-profile title fight with Brazilian Jose Aldo that, ‘it it was a different time’, he would ‘invade his favela on horseback, and would kill anyone who wasn’t fit to work’?

More recently, he’s promoted his tangles with Hispanic American fighter Nate Diaz by pathetically chiding his opponent as a ‘cracked Ese’, an ‘ugly Mexican’, a ‘Cholo gangster from the hood’ and a ‘cockroach’ - the latter of these slurs was particularly offensive given its use by Americans to slur Mexican immigrants.

Some writers, like historian Liam Hogan, have called out McGregor’s reliance on racial insults. However, some of the websites that have rightly highlighted the hatred spewed at Michelle Marie and @ireland are the same that cheerlead McGregor and mark out some of his loathsome press conferences as ‘spectacular’ and ‘hilarious’ and have crowned him ‘King of the Trash Talk’.

They’d do well to be more critical of a man who bases a lot of his shtick on provoking people with stereotypes that have no place in sport. The fawning and refusal to criticise him is a failure of journalism. How do us Irish followers of sport feel when sectarians chant The Famine Song or The Billy Boys? We’re rightly offended. You would think one of our own would therefore recognise that history and heritage are rarely - if ever -fair game.

 For a man like McGregor, who invests so much in creating a mythical backstory of a fighter from a warrior race, who has fought prejudice his whole life, to resort to the lowest rung of the ladder in slandering people for their heritage, their nationality and their socio-economic standing is a stunning contradiction. It’s not funny anymore.

Fans of The Notorious have no doubt long stopped reading this and are drawing a sharp intake of breath before launching into a Grade A tantrum on Twitter or in the comments section but they should know I’m not anti-McGregor. I don’t believe he’s a racist but this stuff is misguided, foolish and just plain wrong.

I admire the time he’s given to some of his younger followers who have battled serious illnesses. His outspoken nature, despite everything, can be box office when it’s not tinged in stereotypes. His rapport with the fans who travel all over the world to follow him is fantastic and his tributes when Joao Carvalho died after a fight in Dublin was heartfelt and fitting.

Like it or not, McGregor is now arguably Ireland’s most visible international figure. Irish sport and life has moved on from the ‘give it a lash’ days but honesty of effort is still our most valued commodity on the world stage. It’s high time that Conor McGregor binned the tropes and proved he represents the ‘new Ireland’ he once promoted. It’s time for him to prove he’s better than the cheap hatred.

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