Maybe we deserve this Mayweather-McGregor farce.
As this country grapples with the uncomfortable questions of who we are and what we stand for, it’s worth noting that hatred and bigotry didn’t start with Charlottesville. It’s in the assumptions we make, the inequality we accept, the discrimination we don’t challenge.
And, yes, even the spectacles we celebrate.
Floyd Mayweather and Conor McGregor are reprehensible people, a fact they’ve been all too happy to prove with racist, sexist and homophobic rhetoric during their tiresome promotion of Saturday’s fight. Mayweather has a long history of violence against women and has served time for it, making his empty claims to the contrary a flat-out lie. He’s doubled down on his disdain for women of late, likening them to property and commodities.
Not content to simply be a misogynist, he also hurled a homophobic slur at McGregor.
McGregor has been no better, calling Mayweather “bitch” so many times the uninitiated could be forgiven for thinking it was one of Mayweather’s nicknames. He also called Mayweather “boy,” and made reference to a monkey.
Models of class and character these two most certainly are not.
Yet despite their obvious comfort in the moral gutter, it has not diminished interest in their fight. If anything, it might have helped fuel it. Though the secondary ticket market has been lukewarm – prices dropped throughout the day Thursday and there were tickets available for $1,255 by late afternoon – the pay-per-view audience is expected to reach record numbers.
Never mind that the fight is likely to be a blowout; does the name Manny Pacquiao ring a bell? Anyone who pays $99.95 for the pay-per-view is rewarding Mayweather and McGregor for their baseness.
And giving tacit approval to the kind of bigotry and hate that has roiled this country and shaken much of America to its core.
“For some people there definitely is a conflict. Especially when you put their commentary within a specific context of what’s happening in this country right now, with the administration, the on-the-ground battle of Confederate monuments, the rise of white supremacists,” said Khaled Beydoun, an associate professor of law at Detroit Mercy who is also affiliated faculty at UC-Berkeley’s Islamophobia Research and Documentation Project.
“It’s a frightening time, and this hateful rhetoric aligns with the spirit of what’s happening on the ground in this country,” said Beydoun, who has written two essays for The Undefeated on racism and the Mayweather-McGregor fight.
Beydoun understands the appeal of the fight, a first between the best boxer of his generation and a mixed martial arts champion. McGregor hasn’t been in a boxing match in years and Mayweather is considered one of the savviest fighters in history, but it doesn’t matter.
It’s akin to watching Jimmie Johnson and Lewis Hamilton race each other. You know what the outcome is going to be, but you still want to see the different styles go head-to-head.
“It’s a huge fight,” said Beydoun. “And it’s a spectacle.”
The bile McGregor and Mayweather have been spewing is hardly new in boxing. Whether it was Jack Johnson, Gerry Cooney or Marcos Maidana, racial tensions have long been played upon to generate interest in a fight.
“These promoters know what they’re doing when they’re deploying race, homophobia and sexism,” Beydoun said. “It’s not new to this fight. It’s not unique to this fight. People are up in arms because this is a huge fight. But what we’ve heard and seen in this fight is a very common theme.”
That doesn’t make it right, though.
It’s easy to denounce the grand displays of hate and prejudice, like what occurred in Charlottesville two weeks ago or what has happened with disturbing frequency in recent months at mosques and synagogues throughout the country. But it’s harder, and all the more important, to confront in smaller spaces, especially when disguised as entertainment.
Accepting hate in any form normalizes it. Normalizing it keeps it entrenched.
Mayweather and McGregor deserve condemnation, not your $99.95.
By Nancy Armour
This article was republished with permission from the original author and 2015 Ronald Reagan Media Award recipient, Nancy Armour, and the original publisher, USA Today. Follow columnist Nancy Armour on Twitter @nrarmour.