Stop Picking On Mike Tyson

This time, it wasn't your fault, Mike.

This time, it wasn’t your fault, Mike.

“Law & Order: SVU” cast former heavyweight boxing champ Mike Tyson as a prisoner and past victim of child abuse victim, who murdered one of his abusers. The episode bombed for the NBC show during the crucial “sweeps” ratings period, and Washington Post TV writer Lisa De Moraes attributes the failure to the show’s insensitivity in casting Tyson.  She wrote in today’s Post,

“Before the episode aired, about 7,000 people signed a petition asking NBC to recast the role. The petition was created by an ardent “SVU” fan who is a rape survivor and who said she felt betrayed by the stunt casting. Among those who signed the petition: “NCIS” star and abuse survivor Pauley Perrette. Tyson was arrested in 1991 and charged with raping then-18-year-old Miss Black America pageant competitor Desiree Washington; he was convicted and served three years of a six-year prison sentence.”

If the “Law and Order” producers erred in casting Tyson, it was in under-estimating the fecklessness, bias and hypocrisy of the viewing public.  Charlie Sheen is a serial wife-abuser and woman-beater, adulterer, drug abuser, jerk and shameless scofflaw, yet there haven’t been well-publicized protests from feminists about his getting cast in a succession of cheery sitcoms at seven figure salaries. Bill Clinton is a serial adulterer, sexual harasser, credibly accused rapist and impeached President, yet when he was chosen as a prime-time speaker at a Democratic National Convention highlighting women’s rights, no feminists protested, and Democratic women tuned in by the millions to cheer good old Bill.  No organized protests followed CNN’s cynical decision to hire Mann Act violator and hooker ring customer Eliot Spitzer to host his own news commentary show, and MSNBC hasn’t faced any boycotts for pretending that Al Sharpton is respectable. It was perfectly reasonable for “Law and Order, SVU” to assume that Tyson’s one-episode appearance as a prisoner who suffered abuse as a child wouldn’t offend anyone, particularly since Mike Tyson was a prisoner, and was the victim of abuse as a child. Unlike the poses of, say, William Jefferson Clinton, Mike Tyson was not pretending to be something better than he is. Mike Tyson has also been fully punished for his crimes. Clinton, Sheen and Spitzer have not.

I am no Mike Tyson fan, but the selective fury of the public in general and feminists in particular is unfair and wrong. Tyson’s brutish conduct has been well-documented, but so are the horrible conditions of his environment, upbringing, and exploitation by others who made millions by keeping his inclinations as bestial as possible—all the better to pound boxing adversaries into unconsciousness with. No such mitigating factors exist for Sheen, Spitzer and Clinton, privileged, wealthy, well-educated white guys who keep getting second, third and fourth chances after abusing women, and who keep making them swoon anyway.

The murky message sent by popular and political culture about women’s rights is the fault of many people, public figures, institutions and groups, including women themselves, but poor, lost, dumb, broke, semi-articulate Mike Tyson isn’t among them.

Stop picking on him.


Source: Washington Post

Graphic: Pat Dollard

29 thoughts on “Stop Picking On Mike Tyson

  1. If Mike Tyson wants a pass from feminist groups like the other three, he ought to consider not being politically ambiguous and becoming an outspoken supporter of the Democrat Party.

  2. This is why “people” hate rich, white men. They get away with it; ignorant boxers, taught to fight for a living, do not. I agree with you; he was perhaps a poor choice by the producers of SVU, but you’re right: it is still true in this country that if you are the right color, have the right credentials, and plenty of money, you can get away with almost anything. Some democracy.

      • Agreed. And you don’t HAVE to be the right color: consider our Attorney General, who was cited for contempt of Congress during the “Fast and Furious” scandal, and still holds his job… I may amend my statement that it is politics and money, more than race.

    • ‘People’ don’t hate rich white men, ‘people’ hate rich white men who are Republicans. Case in point is Al Gore versus Mitt Romney. How much backlash has Al Gore received over the last 10 year for his financial dealings both in television and the crony capitalist green energy business? Romney actually risked his own capital and increased the value, on average, of the companies he bought while Al Gore has been selling political connections. Gore get’s a pass because of his political leanings while Romney gets treated like dirt for his.

      • This is also a fact, though Gore did get some flack (not enough) for selling his “environmental” cable TV station to Al Jareeza, major oil producer. Over time Gore has gotten away with things like having the largest energy “footprint” in his own state (while George Bush the 2nd runs his Texas farm primarily on solar and water energy sources — how many people have been told about that?).

        This then is also a media problem. Biased, unfair, and solidly Democratic. Years ago one of my high school teachers told me that if I ever wanted power to go into journalism or broadcast media, telling me (which I learned for myself later) that it is the media that decides what we should know and can know, and protects their cronies who share their ideology.

        PS I voted for Romney. He made his own money, gave his entire inheritance to his alma mater (who knew about that?), and is a successful (unlike Trump, e.g.) entrepreneur, and businessman. What we need. Not more cant, dogma, and political fakery.

  3. I would say that its more an issue of respect than race or wealth. As difficult as it is to classify social hierarchy, its still relatively easy to say that people respect the social position of prototypical actors and politicians above boxers. (Support question: How many culturally influential boxers are there compared to actors and politicians?) Especially when you consider that Tyson’s voice and ear-biting dont work in his favor (hes frequently the butt of cowardly-lion tropes). Moral of the story? People who commit crimes at the height of their “respect bell curve” will be forgiven faster and for far worse than those that commit them at lower points.

    • Which is exactly backwards. Those of high public esteem should be held to a higher standard, not lower. There is much less of a conduct and ethics gap between beating people senseless for a living and rape than between high elected office or red carpet status and violence against women.

    • Okay, but who drives the “respect bell curve?” The media does. It has its darlings, and its “reprehensibles.” I am not defending Tyson in any way (I think he’s a pig), but the point is clear: we are “taught” the “bell curve” by the media and propaganda, not by what we really know about anyone in the “curve.” You may be too young to remember Muhammed Ali’s problems when he refused the draft… He was loved, admired and respected when boxing was still at its height, but his troubles only began when he moved off the media mark, and became a pariah for years.

      Further, I don’t see why actors have any right to be “culturally influential.” It’s like Roger Clemens, who, we were reminded, was called “The Rocket,” not the “Rocket Scientist.” No one ever asked his political opinions, and for good reason. Actors who use their popularity to speak out on issues about which they really know little infuriate me. Alec Baldwin, for example, said he would move to Canada if George Bush were re-elected. He’s still here, and still a moron. Reason? Money. Frankly, I am certain that most of the entertainment industry ideologues feel free to take the positions they do because they have so much money that nothing a liberal administration does can hurt them financially. Money. Again. One can take the occasional stand, however: since Woody Allen (brilliant tho he may be) married his own adopted daughter, I have refused to see any of his movies. I don’t want one cent of my money going into HIS pocket. So I guess the only way to speak for ourselves is the same. Money.

      • The response is logically straight forward but Im not sure how it relates back to my post? Except maybe the part about wealth – money is a contributing factor to societal respect but its far from determinate. Case in point: Donald Trump.

  4. Whine. Would you like some cheese to go with it? You left out sports heroes like Michael Vick, et al in the discussion. If you want to go after Bill Clinton, Al Gore, or any other Democrat, just do it based on the merits of your own arguments — you don’t need to defend Tyson to do that, do you?

    • You appear to have missed the thrust of my remarks.

      I am not defending Tyson in any way. Where did I defend Tyson? The post involves the selective targets of vengeance and outrage from feminists an activists, based not on any rational basis, but on various unrelated biases, positive and negative. In this case, Tyson is being blamed for conduct that is neither hypocritical, self-aggrandizing or harmful.

      I don’t see how Vick’s case is even relevant. His crime involved animal abuse, and if there is one thing about animal advocates, they don’t forgive or forget. The match to Vick is Mitt Romney, and the analogy to Clinton speaking at a women-themed convention would be Mitt speaking at the Westminster Dog show—after his episode with Seamus? They would have run him out of town—as any feminist with integrity should have done with Clinton.

      • Jack, You said “I am not defending Tyson in any way. Where did I defend Tyson?” You had concluded your first post with “Stop picking on him.” Perhaps I misconstrued the purpose of your post because of that?

        Vick’s case is as relevant as Roger Clemens, Alec Baldwin, Eric Holder, Al Gore or any other of the examples used that were not specifically misogynistic. I actually can’t decide if you’re more angry with “women’s libbers” or “them damn demmicrats”.

        Since I’m not into bashing — especially any particular party over another since I haven’t found anyone/political persuasion is immune to flaws of this nature — I’ll take my leave of your blog. It was interesting but not as informative and concerned with the actual merits of intriguing ethical issues as I thought it might be at first. Not blaming — just not what I was interested in after all.

        • 1. “Perhaps I misconstrued the purpose of your post because of that?” I don’t know. Picking on someone unjustly for something he didn’t do wrong is not the same thing as defending that person for what he has done wrong. Mike Tyson is a rapist, a criminal, a spousal abuser and cruel and violent brute. But he had every right and reason to play a character like himself on TV.

          2. I’m not angry at anyone. I am in favor of values, and those who ignore the conduct of individuals like Clinton and Spitzer while cheering their words have a deficit in them, as these individuals encourage and enable the conduct they claim to deplore.

          3. This was not a political post. The group involved in protesting Mr. Tyson happened to be female activists, and I was pointing out, correctly, the fact that they are quick to try to stop a troubled black athlete from moving forward AFTER he has paid his dept to society, but not, apparently, interested in condemning rich white politicos who have escaped accountability and profit from hypocrisy.

          4. Why Democrats aren’t as outraged by this, I don’t know. But they are the ones being partisan, not I. Show me a GOP equivalent of Bill Clinton who spoke at a self-consciously pro-female event without protest, and I’ll happily add him to the post. It’s not the party, it’s the conduct.

          5. “Vick’s case is as relevant as Roger Clemens, Alec Baldwin, Eric Holder, Al Gore or any other of the examples used that were not specifically misogynistic.” HUH??? Since my post mentioned not a single one of these, and since not a single one, in my view, fits the topic, I can’t imagine what you think you’re saying. I am not accountable for what other commenters, including you, write or misconstrue.

          6. “I actually can’t decide if you’re more angry with “women’s libbers” or “them damn demmicrats”.” Pretty unfair, as well as unjustified, to attribute sexist and partisan bias to a post that you appear unable to criticize articulately or persuasively. My credentials as a supporter of women’s equality and rights is solid; as with virtually every issue, I don’t toe the line in every respect, and just because I support a movement doesn’t mean that I have to agree with every position, or like you, refuse to call misconduct to account.

          7. What you are interested in, like too many people, is commentary that is comfortably in line with your own pre-set opinions and biases. I am proud to say you won’t get that here, ever. I hope nobody gets that here.

          8. Sorry you couldn’t cut it, Linda.

          • Jack — A brief (I’ll endeavor) reply:

            1. I did not attribute motives to your “defense” of Tyson — I simply stated you defended him. You did.

            2. I agree that one should not cheer on a person who is a bad role model, in general.

            3. It appeared “political” due to examples gleaned from only one political party while there are many from both parties. I agree that arguments lose weight with me when they ignore the insults and injuries perpetrated by a wide range of individuals.

            4. Perhaps you should better define “self-consciously pro-female event”. Perhaps one can not give an example of a Republican having done so since there are no “self-consciously pro-female events” at which one has spoken? Before I can give you an example, I’ll challenge you to give me an example of such an event at which a Republican may have spoken so as to point me in the right direction…

            5. I mentioned all those people as a general response to the topic including the comments posted. The fact that you only chose to take me to task for inclusion of Vick in my comments is telling.

            6. I have always felt comfortable in calling misconduct into account and while I, too, have credentials of supporting “progressive” issues over many years, that does not make me immune from challenges. I’ll stand my personal moral ground as I expect you to stand yours. Please explain to me where I have refused to call misconduct simply through pointing out problematic issues (particularly in the responses). I questioned the apparent partisan attack and suggested it should be more transparent. Call a spade a spade and let’s deal with the “real” issue. I find plenty wrong with the actions of a great many public officials and don’t mind at all opining — just don’t see the need to “hide” behind a fake issue to do so.

            7. Haha — I feel you protest too much! Who is uncomfortable with commentary not in line with their own bias? I know you’ll not openly accept such criticism — but at the end of the day, you and I just go home with ourselves and decide what we’ve learned.

            8. Ending your missive with a snub. How appropriate.

            • Even more briefly..

              1. I deplored the conduct of those who attacked him. That is not defending him. It just is not.
              2. I pick examples that are good examples. If there are other examples germane to the post that are from other parties, great, show them to me. I couldn’t think of any.
              3. Nor need I. I have no obligation to balance every Democratic creep with a GOP creep, in this post or any other. Sometimes it’s easy to do.
              4. I’m sure that’s the reason. So what? The issue was the conduct of women’s issue activists.
              5. Michael Vick was your initial “what about?” and he is irrelevant. I can’t imagine why you think that’s “telling.”
              6. I’m not questioning this at all. I’m questioning you attributing a straight diagnosis of unfairness and bias to what you characterized as redneck objections to “women’s libbers” and Democrats. Dirty pool.
              7. You know nothing about how I operate here, obviously.
              8. Not a snub, a diagnosis. You couldn’t defend your position, so you blame the blog, and leave, spouting innuendos instead. That’s a lot worse than any snub. I call it cowardly.

              • OK — Definitely not interested in spending another moment talking with you. That’s my diagnosis. And I’ve spent many hours talking with people I don’t agree with — but I never waste my time with people who aren’t really “open to discussion”. Thank heavens there are more people who are than who aren’t. How can we move forward — change our opinions — open ourselves to new ideas — when we’re so entrenched in our own self-worth? Good luck, Jack. And, as Paul Simon might opine — slip out the back.

                  • My point exactly. Leaving an argument with a non-substantive comment and announcing that the forum has proven itself unworthy of your wisdom (without demonstrating same) is a cop-out, I hate it, and will never be received kindly. I’m happy to accept opposing or contrary viewpoints, if they are supported with logic, facts, anything.

  5. How many others would have only served 3 years for rape?

    No, I do *not* believe Mr Tyson has paid his debt to society, though he paid a great deal of money for excellent legal representation, so you could say that was a fine, part of the punishment too.

    There’s also this of course:

    He has every right to appear on any TV program that wants him, and can pay for him. I have every right to bring my displeasure at that to the attention of anyone relevant, not to watch that particular program, and to encourage others to do the same.

    As for “poor”, his net worth is in excess of $1 million. a far cry from the $300 million he’s earned throughout his life, but not exactly chump change. Considering his net worth was less than $1000 not that long ago, I don’t think “dumb” is accurate either.

    • Dumb is accurate.
      Now I will defend Tyson, to this extent: Society determines the debt, not the debtor. I think Tyson deserved more than 3 years, but I wasn’t in the courtroom, and didn’t try the case. I do recall that this was a date rape scenario, and that kind of case usually gets a smaller sentence. As far as lawyers are concerned, you have it backwards—the system wants every defendant to have the best possible defense. The fact that Tyson got one shouldn’t be held against him. The problem is that other defendants don’t, and too often end up in jail when competent defenses would have freed them. I certainly don’t begrudge Tyson what money he has left. He made more money for his mentors, investors and exploiters than he did for himself, and he certainly earned his money through harder labor than most of us.

      People have a right to be unfair, and to apply double standards. They should be aware of what they are doing, though.

      • the system wants every defendant to have the best possible defense. The fact that Tyson got one shouldn’t be held against him. The problem is that other dependents don’t, and too often end up in jail when competent defenses would have freed them.

        In theory… in practice, even if there was enough money to pay for adequate legal representation, “the system” relies on the majority of defendants being railroaded into plea bargains. There’s no way that the system could afford even 20% of cases coming to trial.

        I agree that all defendants should have adequate representation. I disagree that the system could possibly work if they did, not by a factor of ten. Courts in the US are overburdened as it is. Universal, or even widespread, adequate representation would be fatal, and is the last thing “the system” wants. One OJ Simpson is enough – imagine millions every year.

        I certainly don’t begrudge Tyson what money he has left.

        He had none “left” as such. The millions he’s earned from “stunt casting” in several movies and TV shows, trading on his notoriety as a rapist have all come in since he declared bankruptcy. It’s a nice little earner, even though every appearance re-traumatises his victims.

        It’s not often I disagree with you Jack, and I certainly don’t believe in perpetual punishment after someone who has made a single “bad choice” pays what’s owed and rehabilitates. Rewarding “bad choices” monetarily though isn’t good, and doing so by hurting past victims is unethical.

        Question – if your daughter had been assaulted, and her attacker, after serving a sentence definitely on the lenient side by any definition, then appeared on screen, cashing in on his reputation as a ‘bad boy” and making millions – how would you feel? Would you perhaps assign a little moral responsibility to those who hired him?

        • 1.) Ethical prosecutors should never bring charges unless they have good reason to believe that the defendant is guilty, and most of the time, that’s what happens. If you are guilty, it doesn’t make sense to go to trial in most cases. O.J. was a celebrity, and lucky.
          2.) Plea bargains serve justice, imperfectly, but again, most of the time.
          3) I don’t think Tyson has made a dime out of being a convicted rapist. That has probably cost him millions. He makes money because he was the last heavyweight champion that mattered (when boxing mattered), and because he’s a memorable character—there’s even a recurring character on “The Simpsons” based on Tyson.
          4) If my daughter had been assaulted, I’d be biased, and thus the last person anyone should listen to, since I couldn’t be objective.

          • If my daughter had been assaulted, I’d be biased, and thus the last person anyone should listen to, since I couldn’t be objective.

            .Yes, you’re correct of course.

            I am myself biased against plea-bargains, as a friend of mine was railroaded by an unethical prosecutor. One who, in the environment, would have managed to secure a conviction for not only the Kennedy assassination, but the Lincoln one, had he cared to add those to the charges. It was a choice between 12 months in a minimum security facility, or life without parole in a supermax.

            As I was on a skype conference call with the alleged perp at the time the alleged crime happened, I know they were factually innocent. So did the prosecutor. But he knew he could get a conviction, and saw that as his job. I will say this – the plea bargain was generous, he could have offered 5-10 instead.

            • Yes, that prosecutor’s conduct is criminal, but that’s not the plea bargain’s fault. Like all tools pf prosecution—grand juries, indictments, prosecutorial discretion—plea bargains can either further the ends of justice or pervert them. The goal is to have ethical prosecutors.

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