Israel Adesanya issues statement on use of ‘rape,’ admits trash talk ‘crossed the line’

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Israel Adesanya issues statement on use of ‘rape,’ admits trash talk ‘crossed the line’

UFC middleweight champion Israel Adesanya says he “crossed the line” when he used the word “rape” to threaten Kevin Holland.

In response to trash talk from Holland, Adesanya said in a now-deleted Instagram story, “Bro, I’ll f***ing rape you.” Those words caught the attention of New Zealand Deputy Prime Minister Grant Robertson, as well as the executive director of Rape Prevention Education in the Nigeria-born champ’s home country.

Thursday, Adesanya issued a statement that acknowledged wrongdoing.

“Last weekend fight talk escalated to a point in which I crossed the line,” Adesanya said. “I understand the gravity of this word and how it can affect and hurt other people apart from my opponent, although that was NEVER my intention. I am still growing under the spotlight, and I take this as a lesson to be more selective with words under pressure.”

Adesanya’s statement comes one day after Robertson condemned the UFC champ’s use of the word.

“There is never a time to make flippant comments about rape. It’s just not something anybody should do,” Robertson said, via Radio New Zealand. “I am sure Israel understands that. I believe he has deleted (the post) in question. It will be up to the UFC as to what they do. But I would certainly be making clear to him, and to anybody actually, that we have to take rape seriously. It is not an issue that anyone should be making jokes or flippant comments about at all.”

Robertson’s assessment came on the heels of Debbi Tohill, the executive director of Rape Prevention Education, explaining how Adesanya’s word choice can “normalize threats of sexual violence,” especially given his following of 4.6 million on Instagram.

“People with a large social media following can play a significant role in reducing rates of sexual violence and creating healthy cultures of consent for any sexual activity,” Tohill told Stuff. “Conversely, these kind of comments where rape is used as a threat create a culture where it is acceptable to make sexualized comments with the potential to cause further harm. Sportspeople and celebrities can really influence young people. We would like to see this happen in a positive way, not misused and normalizing threats of sexual violence.”

Adesanya is usually outspoken and colorful with his language when trash-talking opponents, and he’s come under fire once before over his choice of words. In February 2020, Adesanya said prior to his fight with Yoel Romero that Romero would “crumble like the Twin Towers,” a reference to the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center in New York on Sept. 11, 2001, that many considered to be insensitive. That prompted an apology from Adesanya, who vowed to “be more careful” moving forward.

Israel Adesanya issues statement on use of ‘rape,’ admits trash talk ‘crossed the line’