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OPINION: Don King –The First Racist Humanitarian?


By Johnny Walker

This Sunday (May 6), veteran boxing promoter Don King will be honored by The New York College of Health Professions, located in Syosset, New York. According to the college, King will be presented with an Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters for “his humanitarian efforts over the years.”

This is stunning news. Don King has certainly been many things through the years, but “humanitarian” is not the first term that comes to mind.

King, as you may know, once kicked a (much smaller) man who owed him money literally to death.

And his nefarious business dealings with boxers are legendary—from Muhammad Ali to Mike Tyson, King has burned them all.

For background on King’s shady past, the investigative PBS TV special, Don King: Unauthorized should tell you all you need to know:

Ahhh, you say, but that is all in the past. Surely a man can turn over a new leaf. Don King is a harmless old man now, and no longer a major player in boxing. Why not give him a doctorate?

Maybe because he’s a practicing racist?

A humanitarian is defined as, “One who is devoted to the promotion of human welfare and the advancement of social reforms.”

Given that definition, can a racist also be a humanitarian?

Apparently The College of Health Professions in Syosset, New York, thinks so.

Proof that King is a racist is not hard to find. Last year, I wrote an article criticizing remarks King made while doing an interview with a journalist in the United Kingdom. In the interview, King showed his true colors by racializing the recent heavyweight title fight between David Haye and world heavyweight champion Wladimir Klitschko.

Haye, said King, “had the charisma and style to revive heavyweight boxing but, in a stadium full of Germans, he became one of many fighters I’ve known who were afraid to hit the white man.”

King also called the Klitschkos “more champions of Germany than of the world,” and by doing so, invoked Germany’s political past in the effort to denigrate the heavyweight world champions. King didn’t come right out and call the Klitschkos and their fans Nazis, but his meaning was clear enough.

However, the journalist doing the interview let King’s charged remarks pass without comment. This too often seems to be the rule rather than the exception where Don King is concerned.

Perhaps King was feeling burned because a recent documentary on the Klitschkos showed the promoter desperately trying to sign the young brothers to a boxing contract, and attempting to con them by pretending to play a classical sonata on a piano which turned out to be a *player* piano.

But King was only getting started.

This year, the promoter veered back into explosive racial rhetoric, angering Mexican-American heavyweight Cristobal Arreola when he started talking about “wetbacks” during the pre-fight press conference for Arreola’s bout with King’s fighter, Eric Molina.

“We even brought in a Mexican-American to give him a chance to get out and be at the front of the forefront. No more wetbacks running up and down picking the fruits and things. Now, we’re rolling, you know what I mean,” King said.

Arreola was justifiably outraged.

“I do take offense on that wetback thing because both of my parents are wetbacks and I’m proud of being a wetback myself. I am honored to be Mexican, 100 percent,” said Arreola.

After the fight, the victorious Arreola took to the Showtime airwaves and began, in his usual blunt and profane fashion, to criticize King for his racism, but he was cut off and tut-tutted by the aptly named Jim Gray.

The show’s announcers then proceeded to criticize Arreola, of all things, for his remarks, but gave King a pass on the “wetback” comments.

Given the evidence, The New York College of Health Professions should be ashamed of themselves. Giving a man like Don King a doctorate for his “humanitarian efforts” ignores a great deal of what the man has done and said—-and continues to say—-throughout his life. Doing so makes a mockery of the whole gesture.

King is a convicted murderer, an unethical businessman, and a racist to boot.

I don’t doubt for a second that Don King is “devoted to the promotion of human welfare” – his own.

It’s the rest of us he’s not sure about.

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