Tyson Fury: Traveller Hero or Villain?

23 December 2015
Tyson Fury: Traveller Hero or Villain?

Until only a couple of weeks ago, Tyson Fury – the new heavyweight boxing champion of the world, was a name only familiar to avid boxing and sports fans. Now, after Fury’s demolition of the Ukrainian giant Klitschko, he has become a household name in the UK, for reasons entirely unrelated to his sporting achievements. Fury, who refers to himself as ‘the Gypsy King’, has faced the brunt of public condemnation since he made a string of comments concerning the legalisation of homosexuality and abortion, and his concerns over paedophilia – all in relation to his personal religious beliefs. His comments are as follows: 

‘There are only three things that need to be accomplished before the devil comes home.

One of them is homosexuality being legal in countries, one of them is abortion and the other is paedophilia. Who would have thought in the 50s and 60s that those first two would be legalised?

‘When I say paedophiles could be made legal, it sounds crazy. But if I had said to you about the first two being made legal in the 50s, I would have been looked upon as a crazy man’.

Fury’s comments come in a paradoxical day-and-age where many people demand their fundamental human rights to have freedom of speech, yet are ‘offended’, on what seems to be a daily basis, when something is said that they disagree with. It could be argued that social media sites to some degree hold responsibility for our ‘culture of offense’, as we are constantly encouraged to ‘share’ what we are thinking – thoughts, feelings and responses that up until a decade ago would have stayed firmly between our ears. Now, without a second thought, our passions and prejudices are displayed for the whole world to see, warts and all.

So is Fury a bad man for holding such thoughts, that many people, are ideas that belong in the last century? Or does the problem dwell with us – the individual, as we struggle to process the idea that not everyone sees the world as we do? I would argue that both of these perspectives are valid, but entirely miss the point, and more importantly – they miss what is at stake…

Tyson Fury is an incredible athlete. His track record is second-to-none, and his journey to the top is one to be admired and respected. Fury, as with many Travellers and Gypsies, has had to deal with more than just the regular setbacks on his way to achieving his goals. Social prejudice and racial discrimination offer no favours in a world that has traditionally pushed Travellers, Gypsies and Roma to the margins. Winning the world title was (and still should be) an opportunity to promote a positive message that fighting (quite literally) against the odds and achieving your dreams, is still a possibility in a time when youth unemployment is at its highest and faith in politics is at an all-time low. Fury’s win was also an opportunity to put a Gypsy in the spotlight; an encouragement for young Travellers and a positive example to a non-Traveller society. But this has all been cast aside, as the media and public have chosen to focus on his thoughts, rather than his actions. And this is where the danger lies…

Our obsession with the details of what he has said, has diverted our attention from the reasoning behind what he said, and more importantly – his freedom to do so. Now, we don’t have to agree with what he said, and we are free to express counter-opinions, but when does disagreeing with someone else’s world-view mean that they should be branded a villain? By restricting other people’s rights to express their views – no matter how controversial, we are simultaneously restricting our own right to a freedom of expression. It does not mean that we have to accept or agree with their opinions, but we have to acknowledge their right to think how they wish, if we are to be afforded the same privilege.

Let’s be honest, Fury offended a LOT of people with his arguably archaic perspectives. But they were merely an expression of his own beliefs, and not instructions on how everyone else must now think. He claims his statements are based in his Christian beliefs. But let’s clear this one up…Fury’s comments are based on his belief and interpretation of Christian values – they are not based on Christian beliefs… People are upset over what Fury thinks and not by what he does. He has irrational concerns about paedophilia one day being legalised, but beats people around the head for a living…and we are upset at his thoughts, and not his actions?! Just let that one sink in for a moment…

Fury, on the surface, has become a scapegoat for people’s disdain for homophobia and women’s rights. But in reality, he has become a testing point for our true belief in freedom of expression. In this season of pantomimes and holiday drama, the Gypsy boxing champion Tyson Fury has become both the pantomime villain and the Hollywood rags-to-riches hero; his hands bringing him success whilst his mouth bringing him failure. There is a lesson in there somewhere. My mother summed it up nicely when I was younger, when she would say ‘if you haven’t got something nice to say, then don’t say anything at all’.