Should Reebok Drop UFC Star Conor McGregor Amid Sex Assault Allegations and Troubled Past?

UFC star Conor McGregor is in legal trouble yet again, this time for an alleged sexual assault in Ireland.

According to a report from The New York Times today, the Reebok-backed fighter is under investigation in Ireland after a woman accused him of sexual assault at a hotel in south Dublin in December. The report states McGregor was arrested and released after questioning the next month and he has not been charged with or convicted of a crime. The investigation, as stated in the report, does not represent proof of allegations.

Although he has not been charged or convicted, the latest allegations against McGregor are serious, and he has had trouble with the law in the past — leading industry insiders believe it may be time for Reebok to part ways with him.

“On one hand [athletes] are unbelievable influencers, but on the other hand your brand gets connected to them,” CEO and co-founder of influencer marketing platform HYPR Gil Eyal said. “If they’re prone to doing bad things and its beyond the point where you think its PR or intentional, he’s getting in real trouble, you have to ask if you’re willing to pay the price as a brand.”

Eyal continued, “Reebok is a really strong and powerful brand, they can find alternatives to Conor McGregor. He’s replaceable.”

The influencer expert believes the mixed martial arts organization already has athletes who would be great ambassadors in place of the Irish fighter such as Daniel Cormier and the last man to defeat McGregor, Khabib Nurmagomedov.

“There are plenty of other superstars. MMA is an industry, a business that’s in the business of creating superstars. Conor McGregor is just the current star,” Eyal said. “There are an abundance of people to take his place.”

However, The NPD Group senior sports industry analyst Matt Powell believes it would be in Reebok’s best interest to watch the situation carefully.

“As I understand it, the procedures in Europe are different than the U.S. and he has not actually been charged with the crime although he is being investigated for it,” Powell said. “It may be a bit premature for them to sever ties with him, but they’ve got to watch the case very closely. I might urge a little bit of caution, but when and if it becomes clear that he’s involved they need to act very swiftly.”

Although he believes the athletic brand should proceed with caution, he’s not sure McGregor — in legal trouble or not — is an asset it really needs.

“I don’t know that he’s really brought them that much as an endorsee. Maybe, in some ways, this is a simple way to sever ties with him,” Powell said. “The brand’s success is being driven by retro product and he’s not involved in that. Their performance business continues to be challenged so I don’t think they’ve got a ton out of this relationship. It may be a good time to cut ties.”

McGregor is part of Reebok’s efforts to promote its Sole Fury sneaker, an aesthetically bold performance running silhouette highlighted by its visibly split cushioning.

Aside from McGregor, Reebok is using other combat sports stars, including boxing sensation Mikey Garcia, to promote the shoe.

With a healthy roster of accomplished athletes, Eyal doesn’t think the risk of keeping McGregor is worth the potential reward.

“If he’s denying responsibility then Reebok may not be in a hurry to do it. With that said, they’re a very respected, well-known brand in the world, you can’t blame them if they decide to part ways,” Eyal said. “The upside is limited, the downside is very big if there is truth to this.”

In an email to FN, Reebok said: “We will not be commenting on this matter until we have more information.”

Two weeks ago, McGregor was arrested in Florida for breaking the cellphone of someone who was attempting to take the fighter’s photo, according to a Miami Beach Police report. The report states McGregor, slapped the phone out of the man’s hand outside the Fontainebleau Miami Beach hotel and stomped on it several times before picking it up and walking away with it.

And in July 2018, McGregor pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct charges after throwing a hand-truck into a bus window at a media event at the Barclays Center, in Brooklyn, N.Y., in April ahead of UFC 223, which was captured on video and shared on social media.

Early this morning, in an unexpected tweet, the 30-year-old star athlete announced his retirement (for the second time) from the sport.

“Hey guys quick announcement, I’ve decided to retire from the sport formally known as ‘Mixed Martial Art’ today. I wish all my old colleagues well going forward in competition. I now join my former partners on this venture, already in retirement,” McGregor wrote on the social media platform.

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