We need to talk about Conor McGregor.
More importantly, we need to talk about the multiple allegations that he continues to hurt women, and the fact that the predominantly male-run combat sports media doesn’t seem to care.
In case you missed it, McGregor was recently accused, for the third time in two years, of sexual misconduct. According to at least one report, the most recent allegations stem from an incident in a bar in Corsica, where McGregor allegedly exposed himself, without consent, to a young woman as she made her way to the bathroom. McGregor was arrested by French authorities on Friday on charges of attempted sexual assault and sexual exhibition. The 32-year-old MMA champ was ultimately released without charges while the investigation continues. McGregor has been vacationing in Corsica with his fiancee and two children.
What you might not know — and how could you, unless you went looking, because it’s hardly ever mentioned — is that McGregor has been previously accused of two other sexual assaults. On December 8, 2018, a woman claimed that he assaulted her at the Beacon Hotel in Dublin, where McGregor was staying. And then another woman came forward less than a year later, in October of 2019, alleging that McGregor sexually assaulted her in a parked car outside a Dublin bar.
Of course, everyone knows about McGregor’s non-sexual violent offenses, like when he attacked a bus of MMA fighters as it left the Barclays Center in 2018, which left two men injured by shattered glass, one of whom, Michael Chiesa, went on to sue McGregor. And in Miami in 2019, McGregor smashed a fan’s cell phone. That incident also resulted in a lawsuit that was eventually dropped, along with charges of robbery and criminal mischief. In August of 2019, video surfaced of McGregor punching an elderly man in the side of the head at a pub.
Is it really so hard to believe that a man who is so careless with other people in public is even more violent in private?
Let’s be clear: I don’t care that McGregor was born poor and lived with his mom while trying to make it as an MMA fighter. I don’t care that he’s Irish and gets into fights in pubs, thus allowing his fans to laugh and shake their heads at him being the living embodiment of the Irish stereotype. I don’t care how good he is at fighting other men in an octagon, or how much money he’s worth. What I do care about is the swath of destruction he leaves in his wake, and how little anyone seems to care about it.
Sports in general has a long history of dismissing allegations of sexual assault as “he said, she said,” and I don’t doubt that mindset is at work here, as well. Despite the fact that sexual assault remains dramtically underreported, the idea that any woman accusing a star athletes (or any powerful man with money, for that matter), is simply looking for a payday has taken hold in generation after generation of sports fans.
But let’s look at some numbers: In 2016, the FBI said that nearly 80 percent of rapes go unreported. And according to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network, only about nine out of 1000 reported rapes wind up being referred for prosecution. Now imagine that the person being reported has not only wealth, attorneys, bodyguards, and promoters, but worldwide wealth. How often do you think those cases get reported or prosecuted? How much courage does it take to come forward and accuse someone under those circumstances? Take it from someone who didn’t report my own rape by some Spring Break rando — it takes a lot.
To look at it another way, multiple studies around the world have found that false accusations make up anywhere between 2 and 10 percent of reported rapes, in line with the reporting on most other kinds of crime. In 2018, the Irish Examiner reported: “Research for the Home Office suggests that only 4 percent of cases of sexual violence reported to the U.K. police are found or suspected to be false. Studies carried out in Europe and in the U.S. indicate rates of between 2 percent and 6 percent.” Taken another way, studies have found that between 92 and 98 percent of rape victims in the study were likely telling the truth.
So ask yourself this: If Conor McGregor were accused by three different victims of breaking into their homes and robbing them, you’d likely think there was something going on, right? After all, what are the odds that three different sets of people are going to make up being robbed by Conor McGregor? And we’d definitely be talking about it, likely every time McGregor’s name came up.
So why do we not talk about all the women McGregor is accused of harming?
Look, my goal here is not to convince you that McGregor is a rapist. He’s denied the allegations against him, and, to date, he’s not been charged with a crime in any of the three cases. Of course, his manager, Audie Attar, had to rely on the familiar trope of “bad women looking for a payday” in McGregor’s defense, and why shouldn’t he? It nearly always works. “I am irate and putting out a warning loud and clear: Conor McGregor is not and will not be a target for those seeking to score a headline or a payday,” Attar said in a statement.
The point, I think, is to draw attention to the fact that we don’t talk about men in sports who are accused of repeatedly harming women enough. Ben Roethlisberger has, for reasons not understood by me, been given a do-over when it comes to reclaiming his reputation (and career) after multiple allegations of sexual assault. Teams are still kicking the tires on Antonio Brown, and Christiano Ronaldo’s multiple rape allegations are all but forgotten.
Why doesn’t this stuff matter more?
Of course, men in the media always ask me “what are we supposed to do? Bring it up every time we talk about the guy?” And the answer is, of course not, don’t be ridiculous. For some of these guys, the time to push the conversation forward is long past. But here’s how we can handle it better: When McGregor starts dropping hints about making the jump to WWE, as he did in July, how about asking Vince McMahon why he would bring in a guy with multiple sexual assault allegations against him? When Ronaldo joined Juventus in 2018, where were the questions about the message his signing sent to its female fanbase? How about when writing about what’s next for McGregor, the media mention that he’s currently got three open sexual assault investigations pending? And whenever Dana White brings him up, the first several questions should be about the multiple allegations that McGregor repeatedly harms women.
In a world currently striving for racial and social justice, behavior like that of McGregor’s can’t be allowed to fly under the radar any longer. It can’t be omitted in service of “sticking to sports.” And men who claim to be good allies can no longer leave it out of the conversation on the guise of not alienating their audience.
Conor McGregor has been accused of sexual assault and miconduct by three different women.
Stop ignoring it.