Credential issue casts Mayweather, promotion in poor light, but that’s boxing

LAS VEGAS – Whether Floyd Mayweather or his promotion company is/was/isn't/wasn't banning journalists from covering Saturday's fight against Manny Pacquiao remains to be sorted out.

CNN's Rachel Nichols and ESPN's Michelle Beadle both said as much on Twitter on Saturday morning, only to have a Mayweather spokesperson dispute that and say both are credentialed and blaming the issue mostly to confusion. Beadle, for instance, never applied under ESPN and was part of a block from HBO, which is a business partner of Pacquiao’s.

As with everything in boxing, things are tribal and confusing. We'll see what's the truth eventually. Personally, I'm taking whatever Rachel Nichols, in particular, says to the bank.

Also uncertain is the fate of USA Today writer Martin Rogers, whose credential situation has likewise been up in the air this week, although there were procedural and deadline issues with his request.

The spotlight is again on Floyd Mayweather for the wrong reasons. (AP)
The spotlight is again on Floyd Mayweather for the wrong reasons. (AP)

All three have covered or commented on Mayweather's lengthy history of domestic abuse allegations, including his two-month stint in the Clark County Detention Center in 2012. Rogers previously wrote for Yahoo Sports, where he, and the rest of the staff, wrote extensively about the issue.

However, many others who have covered the subject for years have been credentialed for the fight. So this isn't a hard and true policy.

What is certain is that Mayweather Promotions, Top Rank Boxing – which represents Pacquiao – and the MGM Grand Garden are all private companies and are well within their right to choose which media, if any, can cover their events.

This isn't a public institution or a government board or anything remotely like it. None of these companies is obligated to provide access to the media for anything.

Absent a government actor, this isn't a First Amendment issue.

It's just a poor business choice that produced a completely avoidable negative public relations spin.

And what it really speaks to is Mayweather's continued arrogance on the issue and frustration that his domestic violence problems boiled back up and became a major coverage point in the run-up to this bout.

It is also further proof that sports now exist in a post-Ray Rice world.

Mayweather has long faced accusations of abuse but charges were rarely pressed and never adjudicated until he pled guilty in 2012 to "misdemeanor battery domestic violence and harassment" of an ex-girlfriend and the mother of three of his children. The details were ugly.

He was sentenced to 90 days in the county jail. He served two months.

The imprisonment of the pound-for-pound champion was, obviously, a massive story in the boxing world. Schedules were put on hold and his career was threatened because of the prolonged stint doing 23 hours a day in a 6-by-10-foot cell. It was relentlessly covered. Mayweather himself used social media to convey his message, generally trying to turn it into a marketing opportunity.

However, boxing works as mostly a niche sport these days – a large niche but a niche nonetheless. Mayweather's legal and personal issues, as with the legal and personal issues of many other fighters, were accepted by fans and within the industry and ceased being a main topic of discussion.

We're not sure boxing fans expect a great deal out of their fighters in the first place. This isn't the sport of saints.

Mayweather paid his debt to the legal system and on he went. He's been the sports biggest draw and the highest paid athlete in the world for years.

The attempted selling of the long-awaited megafight with Pacquiao however meant moving into the mainstream, with both the public and media. And now domestic violence is a huge issue, thanks to Rice being suspended from the NFL last season after video emerged of him knocking out his then-fiancée in an Atlantic City casino elevator.

Interest will remain huge in Saturday's megafight. (AP)
Interest will remain huge in Saturday's megafight. (AP)

It could've almost as easily been Pacquiao's conservative, religious-based stance on numerous social issues. While obviously not illegal or as universally condemned, it is the kind of thing that has overwhelmed unsuspecting public figures to media and public backlash. This time, though, it wasn't.

Enter a clueless Mayweather, who suddenly was reminded of his past and was ill-equipped to handle it with any contrition or professionalism.

It is par for the course in combat sports for writers and broadcasters to be denied credentials or assignments due to disfavor from certain fighters or promotions. It's happened and will continue to happen in boxing and mixed martial arts.

Only this time the controversy involves high-profile and popular female television personalities during the lead-up to the sport’s biggest event in years.

If Nichols, Beadle or Rogers was ever denied a credential due to their coverage, that’s just dumb public relations. It was pointless, drew more attention to Mayweather's ugly history and potentially turned some customers away.

The fight, of course, will be a huge commercial success. And the line for the thousand-plus media members who are credentialed stretched around the arena and was an hour long Saturday morning.

Yahoo Sports' Kevin Iole breaks down Pacquiao-Mayweather

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