The Complexion of Forgiveness & Exclusivity of Redemption in a Failed Society & its Sporting Culture
Although I find it to be less of an indictment on sports, and more so upon the structure of our collapsing society and its fundamental inability or intentional unwillingness to solve social issues including domestic violence in any capacity, the unfortunate reality is that domestic violence, sexual assault and violent crime in general, will always be inseparable from contact and combat sports athletes. But is it possible for its tolerance to finally be divorced from the overall sporting culture?
It is important to our moral and psychological wellbeing that we do not abandon our capacity to love and forgive, even in the most extreme of circumstances. But perhaps the complexion of forgiveness should be allowed to change on a gradient with the severity of the offenses as well. Therefore, forgiveness should still be encouraged even in conjunction with the most severe punishments and the inability for redemption.
Without the capacity to forgive and therefore heal, we will allow ourselves to become monsters as well. There are lines that cannot be crossed, crimes that one cannot come back from, but we must remain vigilant in maintaining our humanity in the face of attacks upon it. When assailed by offenders who are not candidates for redemption, it is our capacity for forgiveness that should inevitably set us apart from them. When darkness takes hold and assailants fail us, we must do our best to lead by example, even if our society doesn’t and has failed us all completely.
In the sporting world the concern is how promotions and leagues navigate the offenses to avoid becoming synonymous with complicity. Which at worse they are and at best inconsistent. It is the line to be walked between misdirection or even complicit denial for profit and legitimate opportunities for redemption for those that qualify.
Conversely in some circumstances that line is not walked but crossed into the territory of the unredeemable and therefore necessitates zero tolerance and permanent separation. But we have yet to see that in practice in the most egregious of cases in the past, and it is not promising for the future when examining the climate surrounding the current sexual assault allegations against continually disgraced UFC star Conor McGregor that reportedly involve a high level of violence.
Despite McGregor’s persistent legal entanglements, it appears he is likely to be booked for another UFC fight in early 2020. No formal charges have been rendered against McGregor and therefore he is still presumed innocent until proven guilty, but these violent sexual assault allegations leave a disturbing and compromising cloud hanging over the fighter, the promotion and its broadcast partners. As well as the viewers, because regardless of the allegations, consumers will still tune in. And for those who do indeed decline, they are unlikely to escape exposure to the content in one form or another.
For another example we turn to the domestic violence offenses of Greg Hardy, who was charged with assaulting his girlfriend by strangling her, throwing her to the floor, into a bathtub and on top of furniture while communicating threats to kill her. These incidents were also followed two years later with an arrest for cocaine possession. It is unclear if drugs were involved at the time of Hardy’s domestic violence incident, but with many of these domestic and sexual violence cases a reoccurring theme seems to include alcohol and drug use as contributing factors.
The once vitriolic rhetoric that dominated Greg Hardy’s entry into mixed martial arts has begun to fade into a fog of reluctance. Hardy’s emergence into competing against ranked opposition has facilitated a progressively humbler and more critically self-aware man. These changes in his character have seemed to soften the outrage that with only great reluctance allows for second chances.
Admittedly despite the growth to be assumed in Hardy’s character, it is still critical that his past be acknowledged, and apologies be offered. No manner of success can erase this essential necessity as it is inevitably a vital component in the overall nature of the redemption arc, if he indeed qualifies for redemption. The ship is close to sailing on redemption, even if the MMA community is already trending towards forgiveness.
Most offenders in these cases rarely display any true remorse beyond damage control for their brands and project a sense of urgency that suggests business as usual, even when the dust is still settling. Continued success and humble interviews will allow Hardy to become the author of his own narrative, but those factors alone will certainly not be enough to allow the damage from his past to be jettisoned into the ephemeral grinder of our societies fleeting short term news cycle mentality. Time alone will not heal this wound, only Hardy himself can do that. He must apologize or he may disqualify himself from redemption, but not forgiveness.
Society and sport have set the bar inextricably low for offenders like Greg Hardy when we also witness the capacity for redemption for figures like Mike Tyson and Floyd Mayweather whose offenses were arguably more severe. It sets a dangerous double standard when wealth and forgetfulness becomes a contributing factor to how these offenders are afterwards admired and revered in media and entertainment.
There is a difference between redemption and forgiveness. Often both the viewership and the offenders are enabling one another by ignoring the past and pushing forward with business as usual, only superficially remorseful. And the promotions and leagues rely upon the cooperation of their access based media which is obscenely complicit in the notion that the show must go on. It is a debilitating echo chamber of denial, after a word from our sponsors.
Mike Tyson was convicted on a single count of rape and two of criminal deviate conduct for an incident involving Desiree Washington in an Indianapolis hotel room in 1991. He served three years of a six year prison sentence. Following his release from prison he would go on to appear in Warner Bros films like The Hangover and its sequel, a Tyler Perry film, star in his own Warner Bros animated series in what would is only a small portion of a lengthy and lucrative post-incarceration entertainment career.
Beyond that he enjoys massive revenues and refurbishments to his image from his cannabis farm in the Mojave Desert, Tyson Ranch. He claims to sell $500,000 of cannabis related products a month. He has plans to eventually expand the ranch facilities into a full service cannabis themed resort complete with hotels and entertainment venues.
Tyson enjoys the fruits of his status as entertainment icon, despite his troubling admission that:
“I like strong women, not necessarily masculine women, say a woman who runs an organization, I like a woman with massive confidence and then I want to dominate her sexually. I like to watch her like a tiger watches their prey after they wound them. I want her to keep her distance for at least 20-30 minutes before I devour them and take them to the point of ecstasy. I love saying no when making love. What I want is extreme. Normally what they want is not as extreme as what I want. I want to ravish them. Completely… I may have taken advantage of women before, but I never took advantage of her [Washington].”
It is in fact the same society and cancel culture that insists revulsion and outrage, that efforts to devalue and destroy careers at their convenience while still unrepentantly smoking a joint of ‘Tyson Cookies’ before settling into cinemas for The Hangover Part 2. Tyson has been qualified for redemption by society and has been re-embraced, largely accepted as imperfect with warts and all. He is arguably a changed man and has distanced himself from his troubled past, however acknowledging himself that he is always at risk with his mental struggles running deep as a life long battle.
Floyd Mayweather is another high profile example of a lucrative athlete to have repeatedly bobbed and weaved his way around extremely troubling domestic violence offenses that have had no lasting or significant impact on his continued profitability or adulation.
Mayweather has famously had multiple violent run ins with the mothers of his children and others. According to court documents in 2001 Mayweather swung a car door into Melissa Brim’s head and then punched her three times in the face leaving bruises following a child support dispute.
According to Josie Harris’ statement and the handwritten testimony of his own children, in 2010 Mayweather attacked Harris by attempting to break her left arm, pulling her hair and punching her on top of the head and in the back of the head which a doctors examination showed bruising and concussion.
According to the police report he threatened to have someone pour acid on her. His own nine year old son would give a voluntary statement to police indicating he was stomping on her shoulder, kicking her and punching her in the head. He would eventually serve two months in prison due to a plea deal that prevented a potential 34 year sentence.
Mayweather would continue to box and earn hundreds of millions of dollars with no effect on his popularity or reputation. So when we turn the examinations inward, to the viewers and fanbases, what does this say about us, when these types of repeated violent actions are ignored in exchange for continued entertainment? When evidence of rehabilitation is less clear, but potentially more shielded?
We must not dismiss the cruelty of domestic violence issues within sport or society, but also remind that the end result shouldn’t merely be punishment, but healing for all parties involved. And healing may not be achieved without something eventually resembling forgiveness. And where forgiveness is untenable, the only consolation is a sense of protection and therefore closure. I am not here to defend the offenders or their crimes; I am here to promote Forgiveness and the notion of the second chance. Because in most situations people deserve one, if only one.
However, monsters and predators do exist and should be excluded from freedom, only allowed their context of some form of forgiveness and redemption to be realized within a cage, in some cases indefinitely. Unfortunately, we have allowed precedents to be set that blurs the lines and only offers inconsistencies in the execution of our collective outrage.
Inconsistencies that detract from far more dangerous and continued risks of predation and harm of our cherished innocents. Inconsistencies that pose to weather and diminish our very capacities for compassion and forgiveness that are so necessary for the triumph of light over darkness.
Lynch mob mentalities are the death of critical thinking. They blind foresight with emotion, overwhelm forethought with reckless certainty, which may taint what are valid arguments by denying the actual desired resolution. But equally dangerous is the critically corrupt moral compasses that we allow to guide our institutions for their own profit and indulge our short term memories for our own entertainment. To a significant degree we are all culpable and must share the blame for this dire self-perpetuation of harm.
The abusers and consumers alike, with only superficial reluctance, seek refuge and willful amnesia within the entertainment and its spoils, relying on a mutually inadequate and fatal notion of vicarious atonement that only expedites the collapse of our already limping society and further serves to diminish the individuals value of the power of love and light over darkness and hatred.