Floyd Mayweather unsurprisingly beat Conor McGregor with a 10th round TKO, and the internet reacted in a way that was even more unsurprising following the outcome. SC8 fan Blair Holloway asked a great question about the reaction:
Is it not dismaying how many young athletes, and just people in general, who celebrate Mayweather? Its downright troubling.
— Blair Holloway (@BSHolloway) August 27, 2017
I’m not going to spend time posting tweets from athletes showing their support of Floyd Mayweather because we’ve all seen the Tweets and Facebook posts in question. To answer Blair: yes, it is trouble. No, it’s not dismaying. We don’t like nuance in our opinions, but there’s no way to look at this question without recognizing the gray area that exists here.
First, Floyd Mayweather is an awful human being. He’s a serial woman-beater and a convicted domestic abuser. None of that is up for discussion. He is a man who beat his wife in front of their children. And before we start discussing the second chances that should or should not be afforded to abusers, let’s confront the reality that Mayweather is on his fifth or sixth chance and has no interest in changing his ways. He is trash and deserves none of our support.
But am I dismayed? Not at all. And I actually kind of expect it. Would an athlete, or anyone, knowingly ignore and condone serial domestic abuse? Absolutely not. Are they aware of it? Probably not. There’s not much publicity about his history because, as Mayweather loves to point out, there are no pictures. Well, there are. They’ve just either been destroyed or locked away thanks to a series of plea bargains and sketchy law enforcement.
The topic of domestic abuse is one that unfortunately comes up often in sports, and it typically goes away quickly because we as fans love our comfortable “stick to sports” bubble. We celebrate De’Andre Johnson as a comeback story from Last Chance U. Brent Musberger told us to “get over it” when Joe Mixon took the field for Oklahoma. Baltimore Ravens fans showed up in droves wearing Ray Rice jerseys upon his return. It’s an easy topic for sports fans to ignore, and ultimately it’s an easy topic for society to ignore. Especially for black women who statistically rarely receive justice for abuse crimes against them. I hope MORE people are talking about Mayweather’s background now because awareness of domestic abuse is vital towards ending it. And we’re not there yet. I am confident if you polled athletes tweeting their support to Floyd Mayweather, most wouldn’t know about his history. And the ones that do … well, they kind of have a reason to overlook it in this case.
Sometimes we, as people, have to make a choice between conflicting motivations. It’s quite possible, and in some ways understandable, that race would trump gender in making this choice. In the lead up to the event, Conor McGregor certainly made some racially charged comments during their made-for-TV trash-talking tour, and while I won’t go as far as calling McGregor a racist, I assure you that a good chunk of his supporters absolutely are. Though it was very kind of the group I found through Periscope who was live-streaming their TV on Saturday night, they were a living, breathing example of people cheering for the white guy to beat the black guy. And I am positive they weren’t alone. In fact, I’m confident that the promoters of the event were banking on it.
Sexism and racism are both disgusting, embarrassing realities in our society. For those fortunate enough to know both only from a distance, the scale between the two is balanced and it’s difficult to understand why one would outweigh the other. Life experiences add these weights to the scale and will skew the way we view the world, and in sports, you always have to pick one side over the other.
For the majority of McGregor fans, maybe it was a love of MMA, an affection for the underdog, or a disgust towards a serial abuser that tipped the scales towards his side. But for a segment of his fans, it was a disgust towards black people, either hidden or explicit. And while my personal life experiences put hate towards women front and center as what makes it easy for me to despise Mayweather, I find it impossible to fault anyone for having different experiences that tip their scales differently.
So why would athletes support Mayweather? Maybe it’s the problematic lack of awareness of his past as a monster mixed with a desire to see utter dominance of an athlete’s chosen sport. Let’s not forget that Mayweather truly is perfection as a boxer. Or maybe it’s that their life experiences put a heavier weight on race over gender because of their exposure to that segment of McGregor fans who hate black people. Or, worst case, maybe they’re a part of that segment of our society who hates women and they truly are aware of Mayweather’s past and they celebrate or condone it. Either way, conversation leads to education, and education ultimately leads towards the elimination of racism and sexism. Thanks for the great question.