'I'm Pissed Off' - Israel Adesanya speaks out at Auckland's Black Lives Matter rally

News 02/06/2020

Stephen Foote | Newshub

UFC superstar Israel Adesanya has loaned his impassioned voice to the Black Lives Matter cause.

On Monday, the outspoken Nigerian-born Kiwi - whose family moved to New Zealand when he was young- was front and centre at a rally outside the US Consulate in Auckland, where he addressed the thousands in attendance to deliver an emotional plea.

The death of George Floyd while in police custody in Minneapolis last week has sparked protest and rioting across the United States, and an emotional Adesanya took the opportunity to make his own emphatic statement on the matter.

"I'm sick and tired of seeing those faces get killed because, guess what, I see myself in them," Adesanya said.

"It's heartbreaking, man. I'm pissed off."

The 30-year-old elaborated on his own experiences of being racially stereotyped and described the way people of African descent are almost subconsciously forced to appease others' prejudice.

"How many of you walk into a store and have to put your hands behind your back just so they don’t think you're stealing?" he asked. 

"How many of you walk down the street and have to kind of smile and try to make you see the person who already is scared of you, you make them feel comfortable?"

He revealed a recent anecdote relating to a move to a new apartment building to illustrate that very point.

"I'm at the top. I go in the elevator, three times already I've had to have racist, sacred white people jump when they see me, so I smile at them. So, now I've got to go to the side and let them walk through just so they don't get scared when they see me.

"Why? Because I’m black. Just because I’m black. What did I do? I didn’t have a choice. If I had a choice, I'd still be black."

The undefeated UFC middleweight world champion also recognised the importance of non-black people's support in the plight to raise awareness of the widespread unfair treatment of people of colour.

"We've been talking for so long, we've been marching for so long, but it's not about us now," Adesanya said. 

"Shoutout to all the white people, all the people of different races being here, because we need you. We need you to speak up. We need you to say something."

Adesanya has spoken previously of being victimized by bullies upon his arrival in New Zealand.

"They've seen me now," he told Newshub. "I keep some of them on my Facebook, so they can see how I'm shining.

"In my head, I look at my bullies. I still see them as bigger than me, but when I go back to Rotorua I'm like, 'I was scared of you'?"