Saturday 21 July 2018

Pat Stacey: McGregor's 'apology' is only a half-hearted jab

Fighter's Late Late Show appearance is an exercise in self-justification, writes Pat Stacey

Conor McGregor will appear on tonight's Late Late Show
Conor McGregor will appear on tonight's Late Late Show

Pat Stacey

I was just wondering: is it okay to call Conor McGregor a chicken? Maybe I’m being an idiot for asking the question. Maybe I’m taking my life in my hands. I mean, look at the man. LOOK at him, for Christ’s sake!

He’s a lean, mean, super-fit fighting machine — a winner and a champ and a warrior, as he’d no doubt say himself, who takes no crap from anyone and has never backed down from a challenge.

As for me... well, I’m a short (5ft, 7ins), out-of-condition, 55-year-old father-of-three who smokes, drinks, doesn’t get enough exercise or sleep and definitely eats too much of the wrong kind of food.

If McGregor wanted to (and I sincerely hope he doesn’t), he could wipe the floor with me in two seconds flat, like I was a J-cloth, and then use whatever little shreds of me are left intact to clean the blood splashes off his gloves.

Conor McGregor with Late Late Show host Ryan Tubridy
Conor McGregor with Late Late Show host Ryan Tubridy

Then again, ducking out of an engagement — whether it’s a fight or a television interview — because you don’t like the odds, because you feel you might come out on the losing side, is liable to have some people calling you a chicken.

McGregor pulled out of an appearance on The Jonathan Ross Show last Saturday, where he was supposed to be promoting Conor McGregor: Notorious, the new feature documentary about him that opens in cinemas today.

Conor McGregor: Notorious
Conor McGregor: Notorious

The reason given was a mystery illness. I’m guessing, though, it crossed some people’s minds that McGregor’s no-show was down to something else: maybe the fact that he didn’t fancy being asked awkward questions about the infamous (notorious?) video where he was heard describing fellow UFC fighter Andre Fili, who’d just beaten McGregor’s pal Artem Lobov “a faggot”. Not once; three times.

Dare we say it, maybe “chicken” also crossed those same people’s minds.

UFC lightweight champion Conor McGregor was filmed using a homophobic slur at the weekend
UFC lightweight champion Conor McGregor was filmed using a homophobic slur at the weekend

But look, “chicken” is just a word, isn’t it? You know, like “faggot” is just a word. And as the old rhyme goes, “Sticks and stones can break my bones but words will never hurt me”... except when they do.

Nobody ever suffered an actual physical injury by being called a “faggot”. Nobody ever ended up with a broken nose, a split lip or a busted eye from homophobic name-calling.

Conor McGregor: Notorious World Premiere – Savoy Cinema
Conor McGregor: Notorious World Premiere – Savoy Cinema

The hurt, the long-term damage, is done in other ways, more insidious ways, and to people other than just those on the receiving end of the name-calling.

The hurt comes down the line when the impressionable young kids who idolise McGregor figure that if it’s okay for Conor to call someone a “faggot” without any consequences, then it’s okay for them to do it as well.

Conor McGregor pre-records The Late Late Show with baby son, wife and family members
Conor McGregor pre-records The Late Late Show with baby son, wife and family members

Even further down the line, maybe more hurt will come when some of those same kids — older, bigger, pumped full of machismo and perhaps with dreams of being the next Conor McGregor themselves — decide that if it’s okay to call someone a “faggot”, then maybe it’s okay to beat someone up for being a “faggot” too.

That old rhyme got it wrong. Words can hurt you, even if sometimes it takes a while for the full impact to be felt.

There were loads of words written and spoken after that video came to light, but none of them came out of McGregor’s own mouth, which is unusual, since it’s normally the part of his body that gets the most energetic workout.

He eventually decided to publicly apologise, though, and chose as his platform a pre-recorded interview with Ryan Tubridy for the Late Late Show.

RTE released a teaser clip this week ahead of the show tonight. I’m not going to quote it all here. It’s short, about 80 seconds, and it’s all over the internet, so you can watch it judge for yourself whether it actually qualifies as an apology at all.

For me, the most the most telling part is when McGregor says: “It’s another one where things just get blown out and they love to just... any chance they get, they love to just throw me under the bus. It is what it is. I’ll just say sorry for what I said and that’s it, and try to move on from it.”

Up until that moment, I hadn’t realised that McGregor and this week’s other celebrity apologist, Kevin Spacey, had so much in common. But they do. Turns out it’s not about victims or potential victims; it’s all about them. Can you feel their hurt?

Herald

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