Two sports. Both with a marquee event to open the month of May. Both with cities and fan bases fawning over their every move. Both with a well-documented history of abuses against women. And both conveniently brushing the evidence, the cries from the outside, and the sense of morality clean off their fat stacks of cash.
At the end of August, 2014, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell sent a letter to all 32 of the league’s owners addressing its stance on domestic violence issues, specifically the beating case of former Baltimore Ravens’ running back, Ray Rice. In that letter, Goodell said, “Simply put, we have to do better. And we will.”
To the commissioner’s credit, the NFL did take steps to do better in response to his employees putting their hands on others, specifically the women who love them. Those penalties, though, were out of sight and certainly out of mind Thursday night in Chicago’s Auditorium Theatre of Roosevelt University when Goodell gleefully announced, “With the first pick in the 2015 NFL Draft, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers select Jameis Winston.”
Yes, the first overall pick in the first NFL Draft following a fall defined by domestic violence in football is the same Winston whose stint at Florida State could be described as something beyond mercurial. He was investigated and cleared by both the Tallahassee Police Department and the university in a sexual assault investigation but not without nearly every red flag that could go along with it.
FOX Sports’ Kevin Vaughan lays out the Winston investigation’s complications, which reads as a laundry list of things that make you feel queasy. According to Vaughan’s research, the TPD gave the case records to the athletic department, who gave them to Winston’s attorney. That attorney proceeded to convince Winston’s teammates who were on scene to sign affidavits agreeing to the Heisman Trophy winner’s story of that night.
The kicker: all of that happened before the prosecutor even knew the case existed or the police talked to those same teammates.
Not to pile on Tampa Bay’s newly minted franchise player, but it should also be noted that a civil case for that same sexual assault is still pending. Also, in the last year Winston was caught stealing $32 worth of seafood from a market and was suspended for a game after shouting, “F*** her right in the p****,” while standing on a table in the middle of campus.
1,752 miles away at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, promoters, fans and two of this generation’s finest boxers are preparing for a battle royale Saturday night. Boxing fans have been begging for a bout between champions Floyd Mayweather, Jr. and Manny Pacquiao for years, and the wait ends this weekend.
Between pay-per-view, ticket sales, sponsorships and more, the fighters expect to split around $300 million on the mega event, further lining the pockets of two men paid to use their fists. Of course, we as sports fans tend to turn a blind eye when the skill that brings in the millions spills outside the ring.
For Mayweather, the line between his career and his life isn’t as clearly roped off as his place of business. There have been eleven separate cases of violence or harassment brought against the world champion in Las Vegas, multiple among those against women and the mother of his children. Those cases include accounts from the victims and his kids, plus pictures that have never been released and even destroyed.
Deadspin’s Diana Moscovitz outlined the struggle to come up with the pictures that prove once and for all the monster that Money can be, showcasing Sin City’s role in protecting its golden goose. Las Vegas’ role in keeping those pictures under wraps allows Mayweather to tell people like CNN’s Rachel Nichols, and Yahoo’s Katie Couric that he didn’t do those things. “Pictures or it didn’t happen” is a real thing in this twisted web, and he continues to weave a string of dollars into his domestic abuse, plea bargaining and settling his way out of trouble, while serving jail time just once (two months back in 2011).
Even with a history much less spotless than his undefeated record in the ring, the spirit of disrespect toward women continues with Mayweather. Four days before the mega fight, in response to restrictions on seeing three of his four children, the champ lamented, “It’s been bothering me a lot that three of them I haven’t been able to see. That’s been bothering me a lot because you know how women are sometimes.”
Suddenly, Floyd Mayweather, Jr., the undefeated boxing champion worth nine figures, is the victim, just like Jameis Winston was the victim of a smear campaign to bring down a Heisman Trophy winning quarterback.
It turns out, though, when the mob is the court of public opinion, the wrath only goes so far. We’re all for domestic violence prevention just as long as it doesn’t interfere with our chance at a Super Bowl or a world championship. Investigations and witch hunts can wait until next week. There’s a classic sports weekend on tap, and woman, make me some more dip for these nachos.