By Sean Crose
It’s been easy to be critical of pound for pound king Floyd Mayweather throughout his career. The man can come across as mean-spirited, shallow, and way too full of himself. There’s also that criminal record and the pesky issue of Manny Pacquiao.
Still, the man deserves a lot of credit. He’s unquestionably one of the most skilled fighters of the past, oh, forty years. What’s more, he has a unique ability to generate a lot of buzz and to make a whole lot of money – both for himself and for others.
Look at it this way – the guy came from extremely humble beginnings. His father was most certainly not from the Ward Cleaver mold and as a child the young Mayweather endured more hardships than any kid should have to.
Yet he rose above what most would have considered his station in life, earned Olympic glory and went on to become the most successful athlete on the planet – bar none. LeBron James can’t touch his earnings. Michael Phelps can’t touch his dominance. Heck, even the German soccer team can’t touch his longevity.
None of this is meant as an apologia for Floyd Mayweather, mind you. His treatment of women has been horrendous and, since he’s such a willfully public figure, that fact deserves to be pointedly noted. His lifestyle is also not something most parents would want their children to lead, no matter how successful they became.
Still, there’s something off putting about cheap shots, even when they’re landed against less than sympathetic figures. Rapper and promoter 50 Cent recently challenged Mayweather to read from a book for charity. 50 Cent first challenged Mayweather to read from a Harry Potter novel. Then, claiming Harry Potter would be too hard for Mayweather, challenged the fighter to read from Dr. Seuss.
The reason for this challenge was to presumably let the world know that the current king of the ring isn’t much of a reader. A New York City DJ named Charlemagne The God (apparently he can’t just be a king, like the historical Charlemagne) decided to join in the mockery by running an audio clip of Mayweather struggling to read – for the whole world to hear.
The whole affair was patently offensive. Mayweather may well have fired off the opening salvo in this public feud with 50 Cent, but that doesn’t excuse the public humiliation of a person who possibly suffers from a reading deficiency.
Poor literacy skills should be viewed as a challenge for the individual, not as a point of mockery. Any educator worth his or her weight in salt will attest to that. Never mind Mayweather’s character defects, 50 Cent and Charlemagne should think about the tens of millions of Americans who can’t read before making illiteracy a source of humiliation.
The truth is, Mayweather will be able to ride this out. He’s rich, famous, and extremely talented. The fact that he may have gotten this far in life without the ability to read well is a wonder and a credit to the man’s perseverance, as well.
What about the less fortunate who are watching all this play out, however? What about illiterate people who don’t have millions of dollars and adoring fans to fall back on? How does all this make them feel? Again, any expert in the field of education will make it clear that illiteracy should be looked on as wall to break through rather than as a source of embarrassment.
As public figures, 50 Cent and Charlemagne should be more responsible. This is about more than Floyd Mayweather. This is about a major problem facing society. Both men should do the honorable thing and make public apologies.