“The wait is over,” proclaims the copy on Showtime TV’s website. The cable channel is heavily promoting Saturday night’s boxing match in Las Vegas between Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Manny Pacquiao. The cable network is going all-out to raise interest to a fever pitch for what it is billing as “one of the most anticipated fights in boxing history.” There is something missing here: Amid all this hoopla, as corporations and promoters line up for their big pay-per-view payday, there is a resounding silence on Mayweather’s documented history of domestic violence — no mention of any accountability or responsibility….That Mayweather is a serial batterer of women cannot be disputed. According to the sports website Deadspin, Mayweather has had at least seven assaults against five women that resulted in arrest or citations in addition to other episodes in which the police were called but no charges filed. …Questioned by CNN reporter Rachel Nichols last year about his abusive behavior, Mayweather showed little remorse. He noted that there were “no pictures … just hearsay and allegations.” He has previously said he should not be compared to O.J. Simpson or Chris Brown because there are no pictures of the women he has allegedly abused — as if the lack of video or photographic evidence is equal to exoneration. In fact, Mayweather spent several months in jail in 2012 after pleading guilty to misdemeanor assault charges….Mayweather, whom Forbes has named the highest-paid sportsman in the world, is set to take home $180 million for the fight.
Such collective indifference by the public of Mayweather’s domestic abuse is curious considering other incidents involving football players. After video surfaced of Ray Rice punching his then-fiancée (now wife) in an Atlantic City, New Jersey, elevator, he was temporarily suspended by the NFL and later dropped by the Baltimore Ravens. Adrian Peterson was likewise suspended by the Minnesota Vikings for harshly disciplining his son. These punishments occurred amid widespread outrage among fans and the public over what was deemed unacceptable behavior by athletes. Such outrage seems to be absent when it comes to Mayweather.
CNN (and ESPN, and other commentators) are perplexed and amazed by this. Let me explain it to them. It’s not hard.
1. This is boxing, in which two men, and sometimes women, try to beat each other into unconsciousness, sometimes permanently injuring the other. It is a thoroughly discredited, completely unethical sport, whose biggest celebrity, most honored figure and most admired practitioner, Mohammud Ali, is a brain damaged shell as a direct result of his participation in it. The most famous recent champion, Mike Tyson, is a self-confessed vicious brute, a rapist, and a domestic abuser who in his last championship fight bit off a piece of his opponent’s ear.
2. For there to be outrage over a spousal abuser participating in a sport, the sport itself has to be plausibly more virtuous and admirable than domestic abuse. Boxing qualifies, barely, because almost anything is more virtuous and admirable than domestic abuse. Still, the complaint is faintly ridiculous, a bit like a historian asking, “How could Hitler tolerate a psychopath like Goebbels in the Nazi high command?”
3. This is cognitive dissonance at its clearest. The NFL is (foolishly and wrongly, but still) looked upon as a great and glorious American pastime and tradition, and the source of honorable cultural heroes. Obviously when one or more of those heroes beats up women and kids, that threatens to bring down the reputation of the sport, as well as its profits. This is especially true when the sport is battling the dawning realization that it is as dangerous and violent as boxing. The actions of Rice and Peterson were thus potentially destructive to the image that the sport wants to project, and outrageous to football fans who like to delude themselves that cheering for men as they become short-lived cripples is less despicable than cheering for brutes as they pound each other into cretinism.
4. Boxing fans and sponsors are not naturally moved to say, “I won’t support that guy who beats people senseless in the ring, because he beats women senseless at home!” This should not be a source of shock and amazement. A sponsor, TV network, gambler or fan who sees nothing wrong with supporting a corrupt blight on humanity like pro boxing is not likely to recoil in horror when one of the athletes involved shows himself to be as repugnant and merciless as his sport is.
5. Yes, anyone who cares about decency, humanity, fairness, respect and ethics would refuse to let a cur like Floyd Mayweather Jr. enrich himself by participating in a sport, unless supporting the sport itself also demonstrates a rejection of those same values. If it does, then the sports fans and supporters accepting Mayweather makes perfect sense.
6. In fact, not accepting him would be hypocritical. It is a good thing–transparent, honest, open and consistent in a way that the NFL is not—that boxing embraces human slime like Mayweather. It is an admission that boxing is a slimy sport, and that its champions are not heroes by definition, but the opposite of heroes. Thanks to this warped integrity, corporate sponsors that promote boxing can’t pretend that they are pure and admirable because they wouldn’t allow that mean, cruel, bad man to pollute their sport, which is already mean, cruel and bad to its core, and has been for decades.
That’s your answer, CNN. Anyone who thinks a sport as ugly as boxing is tolerable won’t be bothered by a little more ugliness in the form of Floyd Mayweather.