As the coverage increased to a fever pitch just before the showdown between Floyd and Manny Saturday night, many people learned of Floyd Mayweather Jr.’s history of domestic abuse for the first time. As the story began to gain traction, a modest boycott of the fight began to take shape. As people became horrified to discover that 5 different women had accused Floyd of beating them, and of his 90 day jail sentence for battery in 2012, people began to ask “how could you support this man?”
Of course, most of those protesting the viewing of the PPV fight are not boxing fans and therefore aren’t really giving anything up. It’s a bit like a person boycotting Target when there isn’t a store anywhere near you. It’s hardly an act of great courage and principle to refuse to support that which you already ignore.
Regardless, even as a person who writes about boxing, loves the sport, and simply wanted to see a historic fight, I did find myself considering the implications of taking part in the pocket lining of a man who uses his fists on women almost as often as he does on men.
As I thought about it and debated with those who felt that by partaking in the telecast I was committing an immoral act, a flaw in their piety began to take shape. As the argument continued, I asked the dissenters, “Do you watch football?” Most of them did. I then rattled off names like Rae Carruth, Greg Hardy, Jameis Winston, Aaron Hernandez, Adrian Peterson, etc. as examples of recent low behavior perpetrated on others by athletes in that sport.
There was a momentary pause, then someone chimed in with “yeah, but this is a direct deposit-like deal.” Which in a way is true. However, if anyone watching a football game doesn’t think they are counted in the ratings which result in massive TV deals for the sport and therefore place cash into the hands of each and every football player—even the ones you don’t like—then they really have another thing coming. Saying you are somehow absolved because your money takes a more circuitous route into the hands of scoundrels sounds like the kind of thing you say to make you feel better about your own comparable decision. It would be better to simply admit you just like football and you can’t give it up. Because let’s face it, if your protest requires no sacrifice on your part, it’s a fairly hollow one to make.
You can extend this beyond sports too. Should no one ever see a movie Tom Cruise is in ever again? Because each time you do, a little bit of that purchase winds its way into the hands of a mad Scientologist. Should you avoid art galleries of painters who were unpleasant characters? (Picasso and Pollock come to mind). What about music? Are you done with James Brown because he struck women?
I point these things out not to defend the reprehensible behavior of those that would put their hands upon another person with violent intent or commit other acts that one could argue are not good for society as a whole. What I am saying is if someone expects another person to give up the things they enjoy, they may want to make certain they have no similar pastimes they take pleasure in which contain matching undesirables.
If you consider athletics an art form—and I do—then I believe you must try to separate the art from the artist. Sometimes bad people are capable of extraordinary things. Pick a sport and you will find a participant who has run afoul of the law or of at least basic decency at one time or another. Golf? Tiger Woods. Basketball? Allen Iverson. Baseball? Kirby Puckett. Football? See my far less than comprehensive list from earlier in this piece. You can go on and on. Before long, the only competitive sport you will be able to watch is curling. Sweep as fast as you can, kids.
I don’t mean to be overly critical of those who avoided Mayweather/Pacquiao on principle. What I do question is the ability of those grumbling souls to apply this standard to the things they love—whether they be art, entertainment, or other sports. That slope isn’t just slippery, it is treacherous.