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Thursday 18 July 2019

Karl Henry: Loud, vulgar - McGregor is setting a poor example for those who follow him

Conor McGregor at the press conference to promote the Mayweather vs McGregor boxing fight in Los Angeles. Photo: Gary A. Vasquez/Sportsfile
Conor McGregor at the press conference to promote the Mayweather vs McGregor boxing fight in Los Angeles. Photo: Gary A. Vasquez/Sportsfile
Karl Henry

Karl Henry

I suppose it's nothing we haven't seen before. A showman, an athlete, and a story of perseverance and hard work. Loud, controversial and in your face. Sport can enthral us all with its display of sacrifice and skill. The triumph of the athlete is exhilarating to watch and feel involved with. An athlete, that is, that a nation can stand behind and be proud of.

Last week, this idea of the archetypal athlete dissolved at the press conference of the so-called "money fight" between Conor McGregor and Floyd Mayweather.

Never before have I seen an event so blatantly organised for no other reason than to make money. Frightening amounts of money. Reportedly $100 million for one man, and $75 million for the other. Cue the ridiculously staged press conference. What we saw so many years ago with Muhammad Ali has returned, this time with an Irishman in the spotlight.

There is no doubting that the two men involved in the upcoming fights are incredible athletes. Incredible.

But with this press conference we saw something else: A suit, tailored with offensive language, and shown all around the world. So that not only is the event just one big reason to make money, and the loud-mouth talk just all nonsense to gain column inches, we now have an Irish athlete representing the country internationally who is sending the message of vulgarism all around the world.

The suit was a daft move. Yes it created column inches, but that was it.

Did you see any athletes at Wimbledon taking part in a similar stunt? Or the Lions players in New Zealand? No.

There is a certain poise that comes with being a sportsperson. And poise is important, when you are being held up as an idol by so many.

The suit set an especially poor example to the young people who follow McGregor. He was letting down not only himself, but also his fans but his country. Ireland already has a poor association on the world stage as a nation of drinkers, and now but another stereotype has been confirmed - that of foul mouthed-speakers, with the suit copper-fastening this stereotype even more.

The press conference, the social media build up, the photos and everything else associated with this fight represent what has become frighteningly the norm: vulgarism intruding into sport.

The response to the press conference has been polarised: so many against McGregor's stance, and yet so many in awe. Love it or loathe it, this nonsense will become the most talked-about event of the year. You will want to watch the fight because everyone else will be watching it too.

McGregor's rise to superstardom has been impressive. However, the showman component that goes with his job as an athlete also presents responsibilities. Responsibilities to his country. His fans. His detractors.

When the boundaries of promotion are pushed, it has consequences. The suit stands for a vulgarism that is ripping through sport. Lack of respect for officials. Bad language. Unsportsmanlike behaviour. When we see this behaviour in society, it is easy to see that it is all linked.

McGregor is setting a poor example for those who admire him. It's not big, it's not clever, and I for one don't like it.

Irish Independent

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