Even the most loyal football fans are questioning their support of the NFL this week. While a boycott might seem like a good course of action, it's not realistic to expect fans everywhere to stop supporting their teams because of the actions of one player, one team or one commissioner.
If sports fans want to take a stand against domestic violence in a powerful way that will undeniably have an impact, they should boycott Floyd Mayweather's fight this weekend. Particularly now, when domestic violence has taken over our daily news cycle, we should have a visceral reaction when a convicted abuser asks us to pay $78 apiece to watch him fight.
In July, Deadspin ran a detailed account of Mayweather's past transgressions, including two months spent in jail after the September 2010 assault of Josie Harris, with whom Mayweather has three children. And now, on top of multiple previous allegations comes a new lawsuit from former fiancée Shantel Jackson, who claims the boxer assaulted her multiple times during their seven-year relationship, kept her trapped in his home and publicly humiliated her after their breakup.
Seemingly unfazed by these latest allegations, Mayweather continues to prepare for Saturday's big fight (and big payday), with Showtime cameras following his every move. Meantime, Ray Rice -- let go by the Ravens on Monday after TMZ released a second video of his brutal assault on then-fiancée (now wife) Janay Palmer -- sits at home, out of a job, the focus of enormous public scrutiny.
The difference between Mayweather and Rice? A few minutes of grainy, black-and-white security footage.
The Ravens were forced to take action against Rice because his attack was right there on tape for all to see. Meantime, 49ers defensive lineman Ray McDonald, who is facing a domestic violence charge, and Panthers defensive end Greg Hardy, already found guilty of assault, both continue to suit up and play for their teams. And "Money" Mayweather collects paychecks and sells out arenas.
The message, then, is that domestic violence is an issue only if the act is captured on tape -- that the punches thrown all over the country in relative darkness are somehow less real, less painful (both emotionally and physically) because they happen in a private home, a parking lot or any other location not under surveillance.
On Tuesday, Mayweather said the NFL should have stuck with its original two-game suspension of Rice, despite the release of the latest video.
"I think there's a lot worse things that go on in other people's households," he said. "It's just not caught on video, if that's safe to say." (He later apologized for his comments.)
He also pointed to a lack of photographic or video evidence as proof of his own innocence. "Like I've said in the past, no bumps, no bruises, no nothing," he said. "With O.J. and Nicole, you seen pictures. With Chris Brown and Rihanna, you seen pictures. With [Chad] Ochocinco and Evelyn, you seen pictures. You guys have yet to see any pictures of a battered woman, a woman who says she was kicked and beaten [by me]. So I just live my life and try to stay positive and try to become a better person each and every day."
Mayweather isn't saying, "I didn't do it," but rather, "You didn't see me do it." It's an absurd defense, and yet it appears to be working -- for Mayweather, and for Hardy, and for McDonald, and for every other athlete who has been accused of domestic violence and escaped punishment.
Outrage is easy when you're faced with physical proof of the sickening reality of abuse.
Watching Rice deliver the punch, Palmer's head slamming against the railing before she falls to the floor, it's not hard to say, definitively, "What he did was wrong. I can no longer root for him." Somehow, hearing an account of Mayweather's history of abuse, even in detail, hasn't been enough to turn public opinion against the fighter in the same way.
How can one watch him box without picturing his fists pummeling not his opponent, but a defenseless woman? How can one acknowledge his fighting prowess without wondering how many women have fallen victim to it outside the ring?
There might not be videos of Mayweather's attacks, but he has pleaded guilty on several occasions. Even though we haven't witnessed his abuse firsthand, is he not deserving of the same criticism and exile that Rice faces?
Unlike Rice, Mayweather's character has been in question for as long as he's been famous. His public persona is egotistic, materialistic and bombastic, and his misogyny extends beyond physical abuse. In June he posted on Instagram: "How a female dresses is her advertisement. If a female shows half of her body, she's asking to be disrespected. If she dresses classy, expect to be treated like a lady. How you're addressed lies on your attire. Sexy is a spirit, not an outfit."
In his Showtime documentary in April, he compared women to cars, saying, "Even though you can't drive 10 cars at one time, you got people that got 10 cars. So you're able to keep maintenance on 10 cars. So I feel that as far as it comes to females, that same thing should apply. If you're able to take care of 20, then you should have 20."
In actions and in words, Mayweather has proved to be a despicable person, yet he skates by without major criticism or condemnation. It's time people stop excusing his crimes because of his skills in the ring.
Take a stand and boycott Mayweather. Tell your friends to do the same.