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ESPN doesn’t want to talk about UFC fighter Conor McGregor’s rape case

Hours after the announcement on January 19 that Conor McGregor, the mixed martial arts fighter, had been sued in Ireland by a woman who claimed to have raped her in 2018, ESPN weighed in.

In the Tuesday night edition of SportsCenter, ESPN described the sexual assault allegation as “suspected bodily injury.” The “situation”, as they put it, had been investigated by the police, although no charges were laid. The anchor noted that they had confirmed this information with McGregor’s lawyer and added that McGregor had denied the allegations. The next morning, another SportsCenter anchor recited the exact same script. The segment was followed by an advertisement featuring McGregor – for a whiskey brand founded by McGregor.

None of the above is wrong, but it is far from the complete picture. According to court documents obtained by The New York Times, the woman in question was invited to McGregor’s room where he proposed to her. When she refused, a struggle ensued. McGregor was physically restraining the alleged victim and as she was overpowered, told him: “This is how I felt in the Octagon, I had to hit myself three times, this is how I felt,” says the trial. She was then raped by McGregor, claims the victim. The allegation was originally reported by the newspaper in 2019. At the time, McGregor was arrested and questioned by police.

ESPN has chosen not to include these details. The brief article was repeated verbatim on the morning of January 20 on ESPN2. In the afternoon, some changes had been made. The New York Times has been cited and the public has been informed of the alleged rape case. For some reason, the SportsCenter segment was still open with the odd descriptor “suspected personal injury”. An ESPN.com aggregation of the January 19 story – which also used the same inaccurate language – did not include a link to the Times‘reporting.

And after that, nothing. The case was apparently not mentioned again on ESPN, ESPN2, ESPN Deportes or ESPN News this week, and the words ‘rape’ or ‘sexual assault’ were not spoken on air in conjunction with McGregor , according to remote monitoring service transcripts. TVEyes. Look closely enough at all ESPN platforms and you will find that this is the third woman to accuse McGregor of committing a sex crime, or you can learn more about the bigoted and captivating slurs he has hurled in public. But that pales in comparison to the wall-to-wall content devoted to analyzing all of McGregor’s minutiae that an MMA fan could hope to consume.

Responding to a request for comment, an ESPN spokesperson said via email, “We have covered Conor McGregor thoroughly” and forwarded three articles published by ESPN.com dating back to the end of December. One example provided by the spokesperson is a 5,000-word story that chronicles McGregor’s entire UFC career, devotes four short paragraphs to the two rape charges, and omits an incident last year where McGregor allegedly exposed himself to a wife.

An ESPN reporter was appalled by the relative silence of the radio. “It’s appalling that the company is doing this,” the reporter, who requested anonymity to discuss his employer, told The Daily Beast. “Mainly because it feels like there isn’t a uniform policy in terms of how ESPN covers these things.”

It is abominable that the company is doing this. Mostly because it feels like there isn’t a uniform policy when it comes to how ESPN covers these things.

McGregor will take on Dustin Poirier on Saturday night in a pay-per-view extravaganza that aired on ESPN’s streaming platform ESPN +. It promises to be one of the highest grossing UFC events of the year. Despite – or perhaps in part thanks to – the controversies, McGregor has been the UFC’s main cash cow for some time. Sometimes that means the UFC has had to tolerate or even ignore its worst behavior. In addition, ESPN + is a critical part of ESPN’s long-term economic health. The network has been neglecting cable subscribers for years thanks to cable cutters. They also partnered with the UFC on a five-year, $ 1.5 billion contract. The ESPN spokesperson did not respond when asked if their ability to report McGregor was in any way compromised by their financial relationship with the UFC.

So it shouldn’t come as a surprise that ESPN has devoted a lot of airtime and columns to everything Conor McGregor is about. They looked at how the fight will cement its legacy or if it will take another turn. His various public encounters with UFC honcho Dana White have been probed, as has his pre-fight emotional state, which is never a sure thing when it comes to McGregor. If McGregor’s content isn’t enough, check out an exclusive interview with MMA reporter Ariel Helwani, or a separate shoot with ESPN yakker star Stephen A. Smith, available on ESPN +.

During a segment that aired several times this week on ESPN and ESPN2, Helwani brought up the fact that McGregor “let almost everything slip away” while on hiatus from sports, followed by a clip. of light fighter throwing a bench on a bus in 2018. He also appeared on the podcast Daily ESPN Tuesday, an episode that was recorded, in all likelihood, before the trial was made public.

Asked to “analyze the latest drama” surrounding McGregor, Helwani spoke of McGregor’s absence from the Octagon in 2019. Meanwhile, McGregor had royally pissed off a group of people in Ireland, he added, as in hitting an old man in a bar. Since then, McGregor has regained favor in his homeland by advocating for social distancing measures during lockdowns, donating PPE and visiting hospitals.

“He was really on his best behavior at the start of the pandemic,” Helwani said, and “took it upon himself to be a beacon of light.”

Halfway through the episode, host Pablo Torre brought up the subject of McGregor’s alleged criminal behavior. Helwani turned to McGregor’s vehement denials and insisted, “Becoming a father has radically changed him. The exchange lasted about one or two of the podcast’s 30 minutes. Helwani did not respond to a request for comment before publication.

On ESPN.com, other inappropriate parts of McGregor’s backstory are analyzed. In addition to the historical lead and news aggregation, the ESPN spokesperson reported to the Daily Beast a story from Tuesday that described McGregor as a “polarizing figure” whose “hard-hitting mouth” had caused him problems. trouble. Over the course of two sentences, the rape accusations and the racist and xenophobic remarks he had made were discussed. But readers who weren’t in the know had to guess exactly what those comments might have been. (A few examples: McGregor called a Mexican-American MMA fighter a “hood cholo gangster”; called Floyd Mayweather “boy” and said the black boxers in the film Rocky iii looked like “dancing monkeys” as they approached their shameless cash prize from an exhibition fight; and called the Muslim wife of former opponent Khabib Nurmagomedov a “towel”. Although he apologized, McGregor was filmed whispering to a training partner, “I never knew he was a queer.”)

That’s not to say that conversations about McGregor’s place in the pantheon of combat sports legends or about how smart money sees combat play out aren’t worth ESPN’s time. Far from there. And whatever criticism one might have of the way the world leader has acted this week, doesn’t invalidate the brave work ESPN journalists have put in over the years in reporting athletes and athletes. sexual assault, including McGregor himself. (This Monday alone, ESPN’s Mina Kimes and Jeff Passan spoke out against the harassment by the former New York Mets general manager.) But this isn’t the first time ESPN has been accused of providing a cushy landing point for athletes accused of violence against women.

In 2015, Stephen A. Smith was invited to Mayweather’s residence to laugh at his luxury cars and the like. For some reason, the former champ’s repeated instances of domestic violence were not brought up during the conversation, or at least were left out of the final airing version. After critics disputed the frictionless interview, Smith set off a bonkers gallows winding, as usual, accusing the audience of caring about Mayweather at all.

The reporter who spoke to The Daily Beast praised the network for its diversity efforts and said the stories and resulting segments on racial issues, particularly during the George Floyd protests, were the proof of their advantage. Going back to its early days, ESPN had gained a reputation for supporting the excesses of its most high-profile male stars and their reported cases of sexual harassment. Perhaps, she suggested, if ESPN had gone this far on gender parity in the workforce, McGregor would have been portrayed in a different light.

If nothing else, “Maybe they wouldn’t make such obvious mistakes,” she said.

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