Pay attention, now. This will come up again.
I’ll be honest: I tried not to cover this. I figured that this was something that would go away on its own, and it’s best not to draw attention to something that may hurt the sport. Plus, after reading reactions to “cunty-gate”, I realized that the majority of our readers simply do not care about issues like this. But after an entire day’s worth of Michael Bisping calling things “gay” on his Twitter account, I feel that the issue needs to be addressed before it gets blown out of proportion.
It started off as a response to a tweet by Chael Sonnen, who himself is not a big fan of Michael Bisping. In a rare miss, Sonnen said that his fight with Brian Stann will be “Iron Man vs. Captain America”, and promised not to wear the suit if Stann didn’t bring the shield. Bisping seized the opportunity to mock Chael Sonnen with the following tweet:
You know, it’s almost like Zuffa should implement some kind of training that teaches fighters what they can and can’t say in public. Just as the PC police started to notice his remarks, Bisping made sure to quote Professor Wikipedia:
And then his most recent one, for good measure:
Okay, the guillotines line made me laugh. I’ll give him that before continuing.
I want to be as easy on Michael Bisping as possible, because in no way does he come off as a homophobe. In no way does it appear that he was trying to get under anyone’s skin except Chael Sonnen’s with his original remark. In fact, I’ll go as far as agree with him on the “bitches being offensive to women and dogs” joke: America as a whole is too sensitive with certain things. There’s just one problem: None of that is relevant.
Remember when Kobe Bryant used a homophobic remark towards an official earlier this year? The NBA immediately fined him and, in a joint effort with the GLSEN, sponsored a series of PSAs discouraging people from using the word “gay” as an insult. Even though the majority of basketball fans were either indifferent towards the situation or supportive of Kobe, David Stern recognized that the media, and more importantly, the NBA’s television partners and sponsors, would not tolerate such behavior. Whether Kobe is homophobic, whether most basketball websites would have bothered covering the offesnive comment if ESPN didn’t make a big deal about it or whether “gay” can still be used as a synonym for “happy” is irrelevant.
Now that the UFC has a deal with Fox, it’s safe to say that the sport is mainstream. While this is phenomenal for the growth of the sport, this also means that fighters are going to have to learn to play by the mainstream’s rules if they want to keep enjoying the mainstream’s attention. It doesn’t matter than most MMA sites aren’t covering this or stories like it. We now more than ever have to worry about the way that mainstream sports outlets such as ESPN portray our sport. Also, notice how the influence of Fox executives is already being felt? I’m willing to bet they wouldn’t be too happy to read Michael Bisping tweeting that things are “gay” any more than they would like to read Ryan Howard or Michael Vick tweeting that.
Again, I understand that Michael Bisping’s comments really aren’t that bad. In fact, I’d say that his comments are nowhere near as bad for our sport as, say, Mayhem Miller’s assault charges or Mike Whitehead‘s sexual assault charges. But that’s not the point. The bottom line is that we are a mainstream sport now. It’s time we start acting like it.