Conor McGregor used the race card last week, and it’s not his first time.
During the press tour for his fight against Floyd Mayweather Jr., McGregor repeated his habit of exploiting his opponents’ race or ethnicity for his own personal gain, and his fans remain in his corner.
On July 12, he told Mayweather, “Dance for me, boy” while he was shadow boxing. On July 13, in response to accusations of racism, McGregor said he was “half black from the belly button down.” He then offered a present to his “beautiful black female friends” and humped the air.
This isn’t the first time McGregor has used his opponent’s race, ethnicity, or culture as fodder for his own amusement and promotion. Earlier this year, McGregor called Mayweather a “malteser with eyeballs.” A malteser is a European brand of chocolate ball, and comparing Mayweather to one is a clear insult to his skin color.
McGregor’s comments aren’t reserved for black opponents. Before UFC 196, he called Nate Diaz a “cholo gangster from the hood” and posted an Instagram photo of their stare down that stated, “I see a fajita.” During a press conference for their rematch, he called him and his crew “crackhead eses.”
He also told Jose Aldo that in a different time he would invade his “favela on horseback and kill anyone who wasn’t fit to work.” During a stare down, he told Aldo, “Look into my eyes, little man. Little Brazilian.”
These quotes are inspired by racial stereotypes and fetishizations, and they even praise the abuse of people of color. Yet when asked about it his recent comments, McGregor said he “doesn’t see color.”
This is a contradiction. It is impossible to mock a black man’s skin without literally and figuratively seeing his color. Even if your eye sight suffers from bias and ignorance, you still have to see color to degrade it.
But it seems to some of his fans that these comments aren’t racist, and if someone takes offense to insults toward their race and culture, they’re the problem. How far must McGregor go for them to believe his behavior promotes the kind of racism that sullies the sport and society in general? Until we see some examples, or at least hypotheticals, there is no answer to this question yet.
McGregor’s comments are not racist to these fans. Perhaps, like McGregor, they “don’t see color” unless they want to bash people because of it, and anyone who doesn’t like that is race baiting. This is yet another contradiction. If McGregor uses race to promote his fights, logically he is the one race baiting, and the offended parties are responding to his promotional race card.
Some excuse him because he is not from the United States, but growing up in Ireland never stopped McGregor from learning the word “cholo”, bragging about Brazilian poverty and colonialism, or promoting hyper-sexual stereotypes about black people. Ignorance due to country of origin is a poor excuse here, especially when reports from the Irish Times and Irish Central show that Ireland, like the United States, isn’t immune to racism and has citizens who are sick of it.
Irish Central writer Frances Mulraney calls McGregor out on his comments in an op-ed and tells Irish fans to hold him accountable:
“Why does a country that gets offended if people so much as call us British give one of our biggest stars the right to go around tearing down other people’s cultures, using insults based on disgusting stereotypes and racism, and generally acting with white superiority?”
Mulraney’s words provoked the ire of readers in the comment section because McGregor caters to an audience that laughs at the expense of people of color and bristles at the thought of respecting them if it ruins their fun. The message from this audience clear. The race card is acceptable as long as McGregor financially benefits from it and his fans are entertained by it. By using it for a fight with Mayweather, race baiting might get him his biggest pay check yet.
Expect McGregor to play the race card all the way to the bank.
What do you think? Comment below.
Photo credit: Thomas Quine