Could Jen Welter Actually Do Some Good By Attending Mayweather Fight?
Jen Welter made national headlines in July when it was announced that she would be the first ever female on an NFL coaching staff after being hired by the Arizona Cardinals as an intern coaching linebackers during training camp. Her hiring came just after Becky Hammon's groundbreaking championship win in the NBA Summer league as the head coach of the San Antonio Spurs, making it quite a momentous week for females in male-dominated leagues.
Yet despite all the great press and timing surrounding her hire, Welter's halo has been tarnished over the past couple of days after she confirmed a TMZ report that she would accept an invitation from Floyd Mayweather to side ring side at his upcoming fight against Andre Berto.
Welter's eager acceptance of Mayweather's invitation has thrown many people off, consider that Mayweather is a well known, albeit largely unpunished, perpetrator of domestic violence. As he continues to rake in obscene amounts of money for his fights, Mayweather remains predictably unapologetic; as most people do when there are no real consequences for deplorable behavior. Since serving a quick two month stint in jail in 2012, Mayweather has stayed on the rise. Forbes listed him as the World's Highest Paid Athlete for the second year in a row, and his income is staggering.
He's even managed to prevent some of sports media's most influential women from even covering his fights.
Prior to his fight against Manny Pacquiao in May, female sports reporters/hosts Rachel Nichols and Michelle Beadle had their credentials denied and were banned from the fight by Mayweather's camp. Both women have covered his violent history and been openly critical of him. In an interview with Mayweather on her CNN program 'Unguarded' Nichols grilled him about the detailed allegations against him and his adamant defense of Ray Rice, but was handed a string of non-answers that can be accurately paraphrased as "only God can judge us" and "no one has any pictures or definitive proof of anything."
(If you have never read any detailed stories about Mayweather's history, this piece by Martin Rogers from USA Today is worth the time.)
Taking all of this into consideration, it's easy to understand why people are confused, disappointed and even angry that Welter has seemingly set aside her role as an empowering and trailblazing woman to be the ring side guest of an athlete whose disrespect for women is palpable. She has spent a few days now trying to clarify and explain her decision on Twitter.
She reiterated and expanded upon these sentiments in an interview with USA Today's Lindsay H. Jones on Monday.
“I am very anti-domestic violence, and the spotlight that is shown on domestic violence through sports creates a possibility where we can say, ‘No this isn’t ok and we can change it.’ Me accepting this ticket does not mean I support his past, but hopefully it is a way to be an instrument for change in the future,” Welter said in a phone interview Monday morning. “What I do know is I certainly can’t do anything good by rejecting what seems to be an olive branch.”
She went on to admit that she understands that not everyone sees it the way she does, and that she could be wrong, but that she is basing her decision off of the success she has had communicating with her football players.
"Some people don’t see it this way" she said," but in my mind, knowing that this has been his history and something people continually criticize him for, for him to reach out to me, of all people. A woman who made it in men’s professional football, with NFL guys, and the NFL has been dealing with some of these problems in terms of DV and was someone who was able to reach out to them, work with them, and earn their trust.I do have a doctorate in psychology and a history of being very positive with the athletes that I work with. That was how I interpreted it. Could I be wrong? Sure. But that’s how I took it and how I am going into this situation.”
Here's the thing. Floyd Mayweather is everything that is wrong with the grandiosity and omnipotence of American celebrity and sports culture. He is a manifestation of the ways in which money and status and power can beget more money and more status. He is a beast that has been created by larger cultural forces that are at work, and it will take a lot more for him to change than a line of women telling him that they hate him and that he's scum. If that were going to work - if that were going to make any type of significant change in his behavior or affect his career and force him to face some hard truths - then it would have happened by now.
Not that he doesn't deserve to hear the ways people feel about him, because he does. He is a bad person and there is no excuse for the way he has subjected innocent people to his brand of cruelty. There is obviously something very dark and broken inside of Floyd Mayweather, but the old adage that you cannot fight fire with fire may hold true here.
Welter is a woman with her PhD in psychology who has made a career working with sometimes violent and/or brain damaged athletes. If she feels that a different approach might help in any way, then what is the harm in her trying? Do we really think that if Welter meets with him then she is somehow setting the women's movement back? Sure, if she is ringside fan-girling and popping bottles with him and his posse after the fight, then there's a major issue there. Yet from everything that she has said, that's not her intention.
If there is even a glimmer of a soul in Floyd Mayweather, even the slightest hint of someone who regrets their behavior and wants to change, then maybe she could be the one to access that. Just maybe, Welter could be the reason that another woman is spared. Lord knows the law isn't really protecting any one. Mayweather's friends haven't helped. There's a never ending stream of people that are blinded by his status and his extravagant lifestyle or that are being bought off. It's clear that no one has really been able to challenge him.
Of course, there's a 99% chance that Mayweather's camp reached out to Welter as a public relations stunt, that he has put no thought or intention behind the invitation and that he won't even end up exchanging a word with her. There is an even greater chance that nothing will change for him even if they are to actually converse. Still, the line between condoning someone's behavior and accepting a chance to maybe reach out constructively is a lot thicker than people realize. Welter attending the fight is not necessarily an endorsement for who he is or what he is about if she uses that chance to try open up some honest dialogue.
How she will actually handle herself in the situation remains to be seen. She's respected by her players and her peers and has had an impressive career in a league and sport that has itself had quite the history with violence against women.
Perhaps she knows what she is doing. At the very least, she deserves the benefit of the doubt, for now.
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