Thoughts on a weekend...
I am a fan. A fan of sports. A fan of television, good and bad. A fan of 80’s music. Of the Spurs. Of cheesy movies. Of John Oliver. I’ve been a fan of great people and some I shouldn’t have revered at all, those who’ve had their share of transgressions in life. And as of a couple days ago, I was a fan of the WWE. My fandom dates back about 18 years, off and on. I loved the drama. I loved the characters. The over-the-top bravado exhibited by men as they flipped thru the air in an athletic well-choreographed dance. It was pure entertainment, from which I got great joy. Through the years, WWE has been great to me, hooking me up with amazing seats, and giving me access that most fans would love to have. And for that, I’m thankful. I’ve had Superstars on my shows, and willingly plugged numerous campaigns and events for the company. I’ve publicly gone to bat for them as, shockingly, wrestling fans tend to be on the receiving end of some ridicule. I did all of it because I was a fan. But this past weekend has been one that I will remember for a long time to come. We’ll get back to the wrestling in a minute. I promise.
The Mayweather-Pacquiao fight brought out the best and worst in people. The criminally abusive past that Floyd Mayweather carries served as a dividing line for the nation. On the one side you had the apologists. The men and women who are willing to separate the boxer from the horrendous acts for which he’s been convicted, and cheer him on. On the other side you had those who would not make that jump, and would keep the national discussion of domestic violence issues front and center. And in the middle, you had a large group that just didn’t know. I was once in that last group. Last summer, while hosting the ESPYs Red Carpet, I made the mistake of saying to Mayweather, ‘I like the way you live your life.’ Many people on Twitter called me out, and they were right. I did the research. I learned of the accusations. The convictions. The abuse committed in front of his own children. And the way the judicial system made a mockery of those women, putting the Las Vegas Money Tree ahead of doing the right thing. I immediately apologized and vowed I’d never support that man and his lifestyle. How could I? A man who views women as possessions, things to be controlled. I have to believe that my outspoken stance had something to do with my credential being pulled for the fight. Either that, or the world’s most uncanny coincidence occurred resulting in pulled credentials for at least 3 other members of the media (who also happened to speak out about DV.) The timing was interesting. First I was credentialed. Then I wasn’t. People have tried to dismiss the entire ordeal as a misunderstanding, but emails from network executives say otherwise. It turns out my access was reinstated late Friday night, but to no one’s knowledge. And by then, it was too late. After a week of various national figures bloviating about the greatness of Mayweather, from his prowess in the ring, to his life packed with cars, cash and opulence, I’d had enough. Those that pulled my credential were actually doing me a favor. I was given a pass to leave an event that already had me feeling uneasy and uncomfortable in my career choice. ‘You’re just mad you couldn’t go to the fight’ some have said. I had a ticket; I gave it up. ’So why go at all,’ I’ve been asked. 'You should have not even gone to Vegas,’ has been thrown around a few times. I’ll tell you why I went. I went because it’s my job. That’s the obvious reason. But more importantly, I went because I have a voice. You may not like my voice. You may find me grating and annoying, and in need of a timeout several times a week. But my voice is all I have. I’m sure I could have gotten a pass on Las Vegas Fight Week coverage. But what does that do? How does that help? Would it have been a much more peaceful weekend for me? Probably. Maybe you think this is for attention. But you’d be wrong. My employers, ESPN and HBO have not once asked me to ‘keep quiet.’ I feel strongly about holding people accountable for their actions. I don’t want to ‘get over it,’ or ‘let it go.’ And yes, I’m aware that there are bad people across all sports that may not get the same coverage. But I’ve seen so many changes in not just what’s being reported, but in the reactions from the public. People are fed up. A lot, not all, but a lot of fans are tired of rooting for horrible human beings, who are allowed to continue to be horrible, so long as they’re winning. My voice is what I have, and I will continue to use it as best I can.
Which brings me back to the WWE. I’m a fan of Triple H. As a wrestler, he was a big part of many of my memories, even as recently as this year's Wrestlemania. As an Executive Vice President, he's successfully led the charge in building the WWE's farm system, NXT. WWE proudly lends its name and backing to Susan G. Komen, Make-A-Wish, and Boys and Girls Clubs, to name a few. They’ve been deeply involved in building an Anti-Bullying campaign, Be A Star. And just last year, Stephanie McMahon strengthened the company’s domestic violence policies: “We have a zero tolerance policy for domestic abuse. Upon arrest for such misconduct, our superstars are immediately suspended and should there be a conviction, that superstar or diva would be terminated.” That's from the Wellness Policy that applies to all WWE talent. Imagine my confusion when, during the maelstrom of the weekend, I noticed a few tweets that may have, at any other time, gone unnoticed. Tweets that caused me to question my support of the WWE and the man who sits near the top of the company's food chain. "So why now," some have wondered. Because sometimes it takes a little longer to see the light. Triple H has continued to display his relationship with Floyd Mayweather through social media, the most recent being a hearty congratulations to the boxer following his victory Saturday night. It's not my place to say what one should and should not do on Twitter, especially during personal time. However the era in which we're living is rapidly changing. And the lines between one's corporate and private personas have blurred. Triple H has over two million followers. He’s one of the faces of a company that depends on a healthy public image. I realize he doesn’t speak for everyone, but does he realize that when he shows support to a convicted batterer, friend or not, it can effectively damage so much goodwill that the company is admittedly doing? It’s hard to sell a message of anti-bullying while slapping the ultimate bully on the back. I was a fan. A big fan. But it’s time to use my voice.