Floyd Mayweather Jr. is a legendary name in boxing, but he is also a convicted domestic abuser, who Deadspin reports has been arrested or cited in seven assaults on five different women.
The hype surrounding his highly-anticipated Saturday night match against Manny Pacquiao has Beverly Gooden — a domestic violence survivor, victim advocate, and the creator of #WhyIStayed — disappointed and shaking her head.
“The industry rallies around the abuser so long as he contributes to the bottom line,’’ she said. “The media, industry, and fans are committed to a fighter who has brutalized women, but have nothing to say about the women who have been brutalized. As a survivor, it’s disheartening.’’
Two of those women are Melissa Brim and Josie Harris, exes of Mayweather’s with whom he also has children.
Mere months after dedicating a match against Diego “Chico’’ Coralles to “all the battered women in the world,’’ Deadspin reports that Mayweather assaulted Brim during an argument. He pleaded guilty to two counts of battery in 2002, for which he received a suspended sentence. Other charges, including stalking, were dropped in exchange for the plea.
In June 2004, he was found guilty of two counts of battery against two friends of Harris’s, and again received a suspended sentence. However, Deadspin reports, the verdict was later vacated and the charges were eventually “dismissed per negotiations.’’
What Deadspin calls “the most famous incident’’ happened in September 2010, against Harris herself. Though he faced charges that could have added up to a total of 34 years in prison, according to Deadspin, Mayweather ’’copped a plea’’ to misdemeanor domestic assault and harassment charges. Released for good behavior, he served only two months of his 90-day sentence.
When asked about those incidents, even the ones for which he’s been convicted, Mayweather is unrepentant, often responding with “no pictures,’’ as if the lack of photographic evidence means nothing happened.
That Mayweather has been able to avoid scrutiny speaks not only to cultural permissiveness toward the violent behavior of its sports and entertainment stars, but also to the acceptance of domestic violence within that culture itself.
“Mayweather’s history of domestic violence is not a harmless anomaly; he is a convicted abuser,’’ Gooden said. “We have to demand accountability from abusers in hopes that they’ll discontinue their actions. Mayweather should not be exempt from accountability.’’
But he is so often exempted — and it’s not hard to figure out why.
For one, he’s one of the biggest moneymakers in boxing— a sport that “has a long history of ignoring troubling behaviors,’’ Duane de Four, an educator and activist specializing in gender violence prevention, told Boston.com.
Mayweather will likely make more than $150 million from the match, which could gross $400 to $500 million overall, according to Forbes.
“It’s the combination of money and a sport whose culture is very steeped in not wanting to question that behavior,’’ de Four said, adding that he’s been disappointed by the “puff pieces’’ written about Mayweather in the lead-up to the Pacquiao fight.
De Four touched upon the fact that Jameis Winston, who has been accused of rape, was selected by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as the #1 NFL draft pick on Thursday night, two nights before the Mayweather-Pacquiao bout. Both are evidence to a trend, he said:
“The parallels between that are disturbing to me, and show how far the sports world has to go when it comes to questioning the impact of these issues on their images and on their fanbases — the perception among their fanbase, and taking a stand.’’
It’s not only boxing or the media that doesn’t want to take a stand: It’s fans, too.
The simple explanation? “We often don’t want to give up our idols,’’ Jenny Efimova, Outreach and Communications Manager at Casa Myrna, which offers shelter and support to domestic violence survivors, told Boston.com.
“People tend to dismiss it because it makes them have to be introspective about their own behavior,’’ said Dan Lebowitz, the executive director for the Center for the Study of Sport in Society at Northeastern.
But facing ourselves is essential, Efimova said: “If we continue to give these athletes or artists passes, it just continues that culture of violence and acceptance.’’
A major link between violent sports and culture at large is the definition of masculinity, in which respect for women is not always a priority.
“Whether it’s boxing or football, the sport is a hyper-masculine construct — we look at men as gladiators and then we revere them for being those gladiators, and give tacit approval of their behavior off the field because we have elevated them to the status of superhero,’’ Lebowitz said.
The fact that violence is so tied into the definition of manhood means that men have a special responsibility to be involved in changing the status quo, Lebowitz said. Men need to be allies of women, he added, whether that means modeling respect or helping organizations that help survivors of domestic abuse.
Allowing offenders like Mayweather to fly under the radar “sends a message to the victims of that person, but also to victims in general, that what happened to them isn’t being taken seriously,’’ Ruth Zakarin told Boston.com.
Zakarin, who is the Director of Domestic Violence and Clinical Services at Brockton’s Family and Community Resources, called domestic abuse “a crime that lives in silence.’’
Breaking the silence, experts agree, is the first of many important steps in bringing about real change, in our culture and behavior.
“This conversation isn’t one that should be muted, it’s one that should be accentuated to the point that we move beyond the conversation point and look at solutions,’’ Lebowitz said.