NFL player Ray Rice’s savage February assault on his then fiancee Janay Palmer is national news. Rightly, there is outrage at Rice, who has been let go by his team, the Baltimore Ravens, and suspended indefinitely by the league. A “national conversation” about domestic violence has been opened, according to some.
But really, the conversation is about the surveillance video of Rice knocking Palmer out. That video is awful and confronting, but it’s not surprising. The details of the case were already known. As Amy Davidson puts it over at The New Yorker, “That is what it looks like when a man beats up a woman.”
So imagine, then, if video existed of Floyd Mayweather’s domestic violence convictions. Imagine a video of Mayweather hitting Melissa Brim, the mother of one of his children, with a car door before bundling her into a car and then laying into her with both fists.
Imagine footage of Mayweather entering the house of Josie Harris at 5 AM, punching her repeatedly in the back of the head and kicking her while she lay inert on the floor in front of their children.
Mayweather’s abuse of women is absolutely no different to Rice’s — it’s just that Rice was caught on tape.
So when we’re talking about how awful domestic violence is, in reality we’re talking about how awful seeing domestic violence is, otherwise “Money” wouldn’t be earning close to $50 million on Saturday. If we really thought domestic violence was unforgivable, as many proclaim, nobody would buy Mayweather’s fights on pay-per-view. He’d be a pariah.
I’m not trying to be holier-than-though — I’ve paid for Mayweather fights myself, but let’s not kid ourselves that we’re taking violence against women seriously because it’s been in the news for a day or two. Nearly a quarter of all women have been physically or sexually assaulted by a partner, yet our highest paid athlete is an abuser and nobody is doing anything about it.
Sure, there are issues particular to boxing that make it difficult for Mayweather to be punished like Rice has been. There’s no central governing body which could suspend him and he’s theoretically self-employed, so he can’t be sacked. The Nevada State Athletic Commission would be within their rights to suspend him, though. They won’t — Mayweather is worth millions to the Silver State.
The boxing media, on the other hand, could (and should) call attention to the fact that Mayweather is a repeat abuser. Yet by and large, they don’t. Last week, Mayweather’s former fiancee, Shantel Jackson, launched a lawsuit against Mayweather, alleging he beat her, held her prisoner and threatened to shoot her. Whatever the merits of choosing civil over criminal proceedings, you’d be pretty silly to dismiss the claims, considering Mayweather’s history of violent misogyny. Yet this is all ESPN’s Dan Rafael could offer:
— Dan Rafael (@danrafaelespn) September 4, 2014
Unlike Rafael, Yahoo Sports’ Kevin Iole actually managed to write something about the lawsuit. The piece was perversely titled “Floyd Mayweather Jr. plagued by claims of troubling behavior toward women.” As one wag on Twitter pointed out, that’s a bit like writing an article titled “Bernie Madoff plagued by claims of troubling behaviour with money.”
Iole doesn’t mention Mayweather’s previous convictions for domestic violence until the sixth paragraph (Mayweather’s flawlessness in the ring was obviously more important) and seems to go out of his way to cast doubt on the suit and its timing, even reminding readers to “remember that Mayweather has not been charged criminally, and Jackson’s lawsuit and Allred’s written statement are simply allegations and not facts.”
He even includes Mayweather’s own ridiculous defence: “Where are the pictures?” Only in the final paragraphs does he note that the allegations could be true, before casting boxing journalists who’ve been forced to cover the unfamiliar legal beat as the real victims.
If Roger Goodell knew about the video of Ray Rice and lied about it, he should be fired immediately. http://t.co/mh7TVi1EiK
— Kevin Iole (@KevinI) September 9, 2014
These aren’t bloggers or cub reporters; this is the way the sport’s most respected journalists cover domestic violence.
So if the media won’t call attention to Mayweather’s failings, is there anything fans can do? Not buying Mayweather’s fights would be a start.
There are certain sections of the boxing media that say boycotting a fight makes you some kind of hand-wringing wuss. That’s bullshit — the most effective way to take action against a man named “Money” is to hit him in the hip pocket. That doesn’t mean that if you do buy the fight you’re supporting Mayweather. I may buy it — it’s part of my job to cover it and besides, I want to see Mayweather knocked out (as unlikely as that is).
It should be well past the point, though, where it’s acceptable to be a fan of Floyd Mayweather. He is consistently, unrepentantly violent against women — a fact that more than overshadows his achievements in the ring. It shouldn’t take a video to make us realise that.
Update 1: Kelly Swanson, Floyd Mayweather’s publicist, tweeted this yesterday. It’s almost funny.
— Kelly Swanson (@kellyswanson1) September 9, 2014
Update 2: After this post was published, Ring Magazine published an article by Tim Smith titled “Floyd Mayweather Jr. gives his take on Ray Rice case.” That “the bible of boxing” would publish a piece in which one domestic abuser defends another is shocking in itself, but the fact that Mayweather’s own history of violence against women isn’t mentioned until the 12th paragraph beggars belief. Smith’s description of Rice’s “perfect left hook” is just straight up offensive. There’s so much more wrong with the piece, I don’t even know what else to say. The Ring really should take a hard look at the editorial policies that allowed it to be published.
(With thanks to friend of the site Daniel Roberts, who put together an exhaustive summary of Mayweather’s history of domestic violence and the media’s failure to address it in July over at Deadspin — it’s well worth a read)