Doctors take an oath when they enter the profession. Today, I need to take one, too. I deserve whatever derision I get for writing about my own hypocrisy in paying to exalt a man who has spent much of his adult life abusing and permanently scarring women and children. I could have held fast to my convictions against domestic violence, but I gave in to habit and custom and growing up with a father who taught me to watch and enjoy boxing. So today I need to take an oath: I’ll never support a Mayweather fight again and will actively encourage more people to do the same. Floyd Mayweather is despicable, and my failure to treat his long history of domestic violence with the appropriate level of scorn and disgust it deserves needs to be called out. This is a basic explanation of why we need to stop acting like it’s okay to separate professional talent that entertains us from repugnant personal behavior that harms us.
Every year for the past several years I get together with friends – all men – and watch whatever boxing match is happening the first weekend in May. It’s really a stellar time spent mostly enjoying great company and catching up. And we watch whichever big fight happens to be going on that year. This year, as with others recently, it was the much anticipated – in boxing circles anyway – match-up of Floyd Mayweather, Jr. and Manny Pacquiao. There was an obvious good versus evil bent to this year’s fight. The five time (at least) domestic abuser who terrorized his children into not reporting his violent assault of their mother versus the Congressman, statesman and general good guy from a country it’s impossible to have ill-will towards. But this Hollywood story line was really just my own cover for supporting something that I needed to protest. It was, in truth, a failing for which there is no apology and no reasonable excuse. No, I didn’t assault anyone. And yes, the line of deciding which personal moral flaws one can responsibly overlook in the name of entertainment is a fuzzy one. History is riddled with the legendary accomplishments of despicable but talented people. Wherever that line is, we ought to be able to agree that men violently abusing their spouses or girlfriends is clearly on the wrong side of it. Why, you might ask, should Mayweather be treated any differently than other similarly bad-acting men? He shouldn’t, of course, but that I have been less vigilant before today is no reason not to start getting it right.
The truth about my own observations is that Mayweather hasn’t changed. He rose to prominence terrifying someone’s sister or mother or daughter. I just ignored it. I lined his pockets because I didn’t place enough significance on what it meant to laud a man who used the same fists that made him millions to punch a woman in the back of the head and send her to the hospital. I either couldn’t or wouldn’t see the connection between my supporting his boxing success and promoting (or at least condoning) our society’s sexist and misogynist tendencies that his out-of-the-ring assaults typified. Domestic violence shelters don’t fill themselves. And batterers aren’t created out of whole cloth, they are raised and coddled and the clear signs of their pathology are ignored. By you, by me, by the laws our legislature creates, by their parents, and in Mayweather’s case, by his boxing coaches and Showtime and CBS and the Nevada State Boxing Commission and certainly everyone who rode the gravy train on his career.
When pop singer Rihanna reconciled with her violent pop-star boyfriend Chris Brown after he violently assaulted her, how many people said with a straight face “I can’t believe she’d go back?” As though the right question in that circumstance is something about what’s wrong with her. I truly believe, or hope, at least, that people who commit domestic violence can be counseled into becoming better human beings. But Floyd Mayweather has not only not showed anything resembling remorse or a desire to be a different human being, he’s made an effort to convince some journalists that he wasn’t actually responsible for the violent attacks he’s committed. Worse than whatever combination of denial and narcissism he must have to swallow the lines he’s tried to offer about his behavior, my own behavior as it relates to Floyd Mayweather and his boxing career deserves the ridicule I hope it gets. You see, I can hope Floyd Mayweather knows better, but I know I do. Or I should. I woke up Sunday morning with a sense of embarrassment and a bit of humiliation. I paid to watch the fight because I valued my enjoyment of a few hours in that particular way more than making sure I was one less paycheck for a person who could have ended the life of someone’s daughter. This came into relief as I rode down the street with two of my friends who are phenomenal fathers to their near school-age little girls. What if it were them? What if these girls – currently being raised to rightfully believe that no dream is out of reach – found themselves on the wrong side of some smug jerk that society had let skate through beating up women before them because he was talented or charming? How would I feel if my own niece were on the receiving end of the rage and violence of a man who’d been embraced for his “gifts?”
It’s too late for this to be much more than a half-assed protest that’s a day late and a dollar short. I should have written this three months ago as the hype for the fight was building. I could have encouraged other friends of mine who are fight fans to skip it, maybe even cost the fight at least a few hundred bucks. I didn’t. Still, I’ll never pay to watch Floyd Mayweather do anything again. And hopefully I can add to the chorus of voices that changes his legacy from one of a possibly great fighter to that of the human embodiment of the domestic violence straw that broke the camel’s back. The problem isn’t just Floyd Mayweather and the many violent predators out there who assault women. The problem is also guys like me who helped him get that $200 million payday despite knowing full well what he’d done. My support by weak-ass acquiescence stops today. Hopefully a few male friends of mine will read this and re-think their own choices, and maybe we’ll spread a small movement among at least some men who realize that writing our own checks in support of people like Floyd Mayweather isn’t just a harmless way to host a cool party, it’s an explicit endorsement of looking the other way when men devalue women using violent words and actions.
Mayweather’s career will, thankfully, end soon. Here’s to hoping Al Bernstein and Jim Gray and Lennox Lewis and Michael Buffer and everyone else who grabbed a microphone for this fight say thanks but no thanks the next time Floyd Mayweather or any other domestic abuser comes calling. And here’s to the rest of us choosing not to look the other way when the domestic violence in our own lives rears its ugly head.