This weekend we will witness one of the biggest fights in boxing history. A much anticipated battle between the sport’s greatest fighters. Fans have longed for it, the media has demanded it and people from all over the world will tune in to see Mayweather vs. Pacquiao. While the fight represents the greatest the sport has to offer, for me, and many others, it raises a question that remains mostly unanswered. How can you root for Floyd Mayweather?
Photo: Star Media
It is not a simple question. The idea of a separation of morality and sports has been long debated, and with this fight fast approaching, I continue to struggle with it. There are numerous examples of high profile figures in sports who have had morality issues. The range of “sins” is wide and the public outrage varies with it. In the case of Floyd Mayweather, I find myself disgusted at the idea that anyone could support a man who has such a documented history of serial abuse towards women. The stories are horrifying and unimaginable; especially considering what Mayweather does for a living. The notion that a professional boxer, the greatest in the sport, could also have a past full of physical abuse that was gone widely unaddressed by the boxing world, baffles me. Working in sports media, I am astounded by the lack of outrage towards Mayweather. How can Ray Rice be so demonized for one incident, albeit terrible, when Mayweather is praised while he has numerous accusers?
We have discussed this lack of outrage many times on my show, but the only conclusion that we can rationally assume is that Floyd is keeping the sport of boxing alive. He brings in the money, the media, the fans and the buzz. It creates a conundrum for those covering boxing to publically take a stance against his actions when he represents the sport on the highest level. When comparing an individual of his caliber and power to a star like Ray Rice there are glaring differences in the consequences for having strong opinions of his “sins.”
Ray Rice is a running back in the NFL. A league with many stars, many running backs, many teams, many players. There is a wide range of pull for fans. Most fans focus on teams rather than individual players. If they are a fan of an individual player they have many positions to choose from. Another clear separation in the Ray Rice situation is that national writers/analysts or media members from other cities have no obligation to be biased or soft in their criticism of Rice or the Ravens organization.
The outrage over the incident was ferocious because of the video. Hard, irrefutable evidence that was shared easily spread the reaction to Rice’s violence. This is an argument that Floyd Mayweather has used to defend himself from critics of his violent past. Rachel Nichols interviewed Mayweather on her show Unguarded (CNN) and asked him what his thoughts were on the situation with Ray Rice:
She mentions the denial, which is a go to tactic for an abuser. It allows them to justify their actions, no matter how horrible or inexcusable. Unfortunately, my past puts me on high alert to the habits of abusers: denial and entitlement are expected. In my discussions about Floyd Mayweather, his fans and lack of criticism in the media, I have had several counter arguments raised to my question of why he is still supported:
What if he played for a team, (ex. Ben Roethlisberger) would you stop cheering for the team?
I grew up in Pittsburgh. I pull for the Steelers. Ben Roethlisberger doing well directly correlates to the team doing well. How can I cheer for a team knowing he is the quarterback? To me, one man does not reflect the morals or the actions of an entire team. This may seem convenient but the Steelers organization was aggressive in showing their frustration and disappointment in Roethlisberger and were fully supportive of the NFL’s suspension. A suspension which came despite the cases being dropped. As a woman I understand how these situations may play out. Just because there is no trial or criminal charges, does not always mean that a crime did not occur. The authorities chose not to pursue it, but that did not change the stance of the Steelers organization towards Ben’s actions. For some, this may not be enough, and I respect that. This is where the line between morality and sports begins to blur.
Floyd Mayweather is not a group, not a team, but an individual. He may have a group of trainers, promoters, etc. around him, but don’t kid yourself by bringing that up. The fan is pulling for Mayweather the boxer in this fight, not “The Money Team.” Mayweather being a lone athlete, not a pair, not a team, not a league is what confuses me about his fans. Almost all sports fans are eventually put in to a position where they have to decide if the moral lapses of one athlete are enough to change their loyalties to an entire team. In most cases, they are not. With Mayweather, this conundrum does not apply. So what is the justification for support?
All sins are the same, how can you judge him from your high horse?
Not many take this angle, but enough do that I’ve had to address it. I do not believe that all sins are the same. I don’t think that murdering someone is the same as lying to someone about how much I weigh. Stealing someone’s life savings is not equal to gossiping. The person who says that all sins are the same had better believe it and live their life every day by this mantra. Otherwise it is a waste of everyone’s time. I do not want to judge anyone, I have made horrible mistakes in my life. None of those mistakes involved me using my hands, which are legally designated as weapons, to beat someone weaker than me to the point that their child is calling the authorities.
You only think this way because he is outspoken and conceited.
I enjoy an athlete that can let it all hang out and be unapologetic for who they are. Floyd has repeatedly shown that he is a womanizer, he has made no secret of it. It does not offend me. The women he objectifies are allowing themselves to be displayed that way. This is me not judging. His attitude offends me only because he vehemently denies his involvement in any of the very well documented abuses. An arrogant abuser offends me.
I understand that being a woman, you can hate Floyd Mayweather, but I’m just a boxing fan.
Are you really, JUST a boxing fan? Do you apply this blanket feeling of apathy towards all sports and athletes? This person truly lives by the idea that sports are separate from morality and humanity. This fan has no interest in what any athlete has to say about politics, current affairs, religion, etc. This must be so because how could you justify supporting a man like this while you have mothers, aunts, sisters, cousins, daughters, friends; all women who have a 1 in 5 chance of experiencing domestic violence in their lifetime. You watch sports for the sport, not for the humans competing.
Maybe I am on a high horse. Perhaps my anger to abusive men has overflowed and I am being too harsh towards fans of Mayweather. After all, he may be remembered as the greatest fighter of all time. If I thought about some of the stars that I enjoy, then dug in to their pasts I imagine I would find things that would make me conflicted. But that brings me back to the beginning, everything is out there, easy to find, easy to digest, and still, loyalty to the serial abuser, remains.