Mayweather vs McGregor: A Primer For America’s Racial Tensions

Charlottesville, Virginia was the battleground between the ‘alt right’ and what Donald Trump calls the ‘alt left’ which has been life-altering for many. With a fatality and dozens injured, the fight has been televised in all its painstaking negativity. 

However, before Charlottesville, another digital battle has been brewing and feeding into the overall divisiveness of the American societal ethos: Floyd Mayweather vs. Conor McGregor.

It is interesting how polarizing Mayweather truly is. As the poster boy for brash, unapologetic Black athletic excellence, he has been loathed for years as a braggart and narcissist. He’s been a catalyst to incite racist commentary among the fans on chat boards for years. But never as much as right now.

Even after two years of retirement, and returning to give the fans what they have clamored for, the trolls have re-emerged to state their Celtic, Nordic and general white supremacist pride. McGregor, whether knowingly or unknowingly, is now the newest symbol for white angst and they have been very vocal about their support of him and their thoughts on Mayweather.

During the very public May Mac World Tour and their respective media days in Las Vegas, the negativity was plentiful as monkey, banana emoji’s, the word ‘nigger’ and other racist commentary spewed from compulsive fingers across the world. It was met with confusion by others in the chat rooms and also the same vitriol by those who felt the need to defend Floyd’s blackness and their own.

When you remember the racially charged fights in the turn of the century between Jack Johnson and Jim Jeffries, or even in Britain when former slave Tom Cribb fought Tom Molineaux, clearly boxing hasn’t strayed too far from its roots. 

McGregor has constantly denied being a racist or race-baiter, although his language choice has been very telling. When he referred to scenes in Rocky 2 as having “dancing monkeys” and called Mayweather “boy”, it further fueled the already brewing animus against Mayweather and Blackness in boxing in general. 

The “make boxing great again” campaign and all its subtle grandeur has been the prevailing over arc of the promotion and since McGregor, his sparring partners and image have eclipsed the promotion it is leaving a stain on the fight. Unfortunately, Mayweather has chosen to accept this as a reality of his career and to some extend has even allowed its existence. 

When McGregor disrespected black women and called Mayweather a ‘boy’, he could have checked him there and placed a clear line of what he will not allow during the promotional campaign.   

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But with money as the only priority, he chose to let it happen and merely went into the mire of ignorance with McGregor, thus leading his fans into battle mode instead of setting a succinct standard of intolerance. 

In fact, Mayweather could have pulled the plug on this whole thing when he saw that McGregor was stoking the embers of racial animus. But this is the same Mayweather that considers Donald Trump a friend, famously visiting him when he was in New York during his retirement.

Mayweather vs. McGregor is yet another iteration of the deep racial divide within America that spilled into the streets in Virginia. As the country topples statues and other symbols of the Confederacy let’s also rid the combat sports world of the hatred that has tainted this country.        

Rhett Butler is a Boxing Writer Association of America Journalist, Play-By-Play Commentator, Combat Sports Insider, and Former Mixed Martial Arts and Boxing Promoter. The New York City native honed his skills at various news outlets including but not limited to: TIME Magazine, Money Magazine, CNN's Wolf Blitzer Reports, and more. RhettĀ hosts the PRITTY Left Hook podcast, a polarizing combat sports insider's take featuring the world's biggest names.