The Soapbox: Floyd Mayweather’s Victory Championed Domestic Abuse (And The Media Is Partially To Blame)

As Floyd Mayweather climbed the ring-side ropes to proclaim his victory in front of the cheering MGM Grand crowd of America’s most influential people, the media snapped photos that will capture the first moment of what will go down in history as the most expensive fight in history. Live television panned to a shot of his wife and three children: They were screaming and hollering with excitement — and understandably so. Floyd Mayweather — her husband, their father — is an undefeated boxing champion who just grossed nearly one hundred million dollars from a single fight.

However, there is also something very deeply troublesome and unsettling about this display. Was it not only days before the fight that the media released a handwritten police report from Mayweather’s son detailing his father’s abuse of his mother? That Mayweather was deemed a domestic abuser, his transgressions made public and fully detailed? What, precisely, does it say to the public, to young people, to victims of domestic abuse and those who abuse them, that Mayweather was celebrated on national television in a tribute practically fit for a king, despite public awareness of these facts?

Though his actions were reprehensible and cowardly, he did not make his abuse a public spectacle himself. Nor did he force  society to condone and even celebrate his behavior. The combined failures of the American judicial system (which barely gave Mayweather a slap on the wrist for multiple counts of battery), the boxing federation’s failure to address the issue and the media’s smear campaign which brought Mayweather’s abusive history into the public arena, are largely responsible for the message being sent to society about domestic abuse and how those who inflict abuses upon others should be treated. Based on the handshakes Mayweather received, huge smiles from teary-eyed fans and the endorsements which are sure to come streaming in, the message is loud and clear: abusers should be applauded.

In all fairness, we know that America was celebrating the man for being a boxing legend, undefeated with numerous titles earned through hard work and commitment. Society’s collective applause,  the paparazzi’s flashing lights and the huge monetary purse won by Mayweather were symbols of appreciation for the time and dedication that he undoubtedly put into the sport. However, when he became the face of “the domestic abuser,” when his history of abuse overshadowed those achievements and talents, his win took on a more nuanced message. He became a champion of domestic violence, a symbol of the freedom and impunity that can be bought by men with enough power, which can be wielded to inflict pain upon others without fear of retribution. That message is not only extremely dangerous, but incredibly worrisome.

It’s obvious that we should be wary of the numerous aforementioned institutions — the judicial system and boxing federation, for starters — that allowed Mayweather to essentially get away with abusing his partner, and that they should should be closely examined and called into question. However, equally culpable is the media. Each article, television news segment and social media post that highlighted the monster within the man only further empowered that monster. When Mayweather victoriously raised that belt above his head, the public no longer simply saw an accomplished boxer, but an unrepentant, triumphant abuser.

Though I do not advocate for silence in the face of injustice, I caution that we must always consider outcomes before taking action. What precisely was the purpose of filling the news with stories about Mayweather’s history of abuse, only to celebrate his “victory” days and even hours later? In doing so, the media completely undermined its own condemnation of such brutality.

If society cannot ensure that domestic abuse offenders are held responsible for their actions, perhaps the transgressions are better left cast into the shadows by the media. When a spectacle is created of such situations, when a man is defined by his wrongdoings and when the public sees that man celebrated and rewarded for them, we are sending the wrong message to both men and women, both abusers and victims. We are telling them that abuse is acceptable, if committed by a man of importance and talent. Such messages do not serve the public’s interest or “greater good.” Such messages are better off simply left unsaid.