The other day, a Swedish guy posted some images purporting to show that after he trolled UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones—he is, roughly, the Kevin Durant or Mike Trout of his sport—on Twitter, Jones went through his photos on Instagram and tagged them with homophobic comments.
"U2 are definitely gay," read one of the comments, appended to an image of the Swedish guy and a friend. "You definitely have sexual identity issues," read another. "Fag shit." "Fag boys." "Homosexuality is a sin."
Cursory cross-checking revealed that these comments had, in fact, been posted by Jones's actual Instagram account. As anyone could have predicted, he and his manager were quick to claim that he had been the victim of a phone theft, or a hacker, or something or other. (Our pals over at Bloody Elbow have a rundown.)
"A hacker did it!" is always a pretty ridiculous claim, and seems especially ridiculous here. First, you have the transparently ludicrous idea that some guy who acquired Jones's phone and wanted to make him look bad would, having figured out his password, immediately head to Instagram and comment on some Swedish dude's photos rather than, say, posting risible nonsense to Twitter and/or Facebook. Second, preaching at a troll about how homosexuality is a sin is actually a very Jon Jones thing to do.
Wanting to get the facts, I texted Jones's manager. The next morning, I got a call from a very nice public relations specialist who assured me that this was all a huge misunderstanding, and that Jones hadn't had his phone on him when these awful comments were posted. Further, she said, she knows he's not a homophobe because she's been with him on photo shoots where there were lots of gay people around, and has seen him manage not to use any homophobic slurs around them. She said she'd get back to me within an hour with the full facts of the case. She didn't, and ignored a follow-up email.
Perhaps Jones was the victim of a comically ineffectual phone thief/hacker, and perhaps one of his weed carriers snagged his phone and decided to troll a troll under Jones's name. The simplest explanation, though—that a week and a half ahead of a title fight, the UFC's best fighter decided to just bully some random guy on the Internet with a lot of homophobic nonsense for no evident reason—is probably the right one.
Jones is a complex guy. He's incredibly focused and intelligent. (One of the problems his coaches have with him is that he stays up too late on the night before his fights watching video.) He's kind and generous, the sort of guy who gives away cute puppies. He's also narcissistic and sensitive, bears the marks of having been raised by bigoted religious zealots, and his competitiveness comes out as cruelty in much the same way that Michael Jordan's does. The way all of this works together makes him an incredibly compelling athlete—the guy who really should be the crossover star MMA has been waiting for—and, at times, a trial to be around. I'd like to think he's better than this. The protestations of his handlers aside, I doubt he is.