Teashops and Tyson

Argus title : Why a ban on Tyson is reason to celebrate

‘Iron’ Mike Tyson, former world heavy weight champion and rapist was KOed this week..

The bell had just rung, he was barely out of his corner and bam! There he was, flat out on the canvas – smacked in the eye by the Argus.

I’d begun the week thoroughly depressed, fed up that the Mock Turtle Tea Shop was closing and fuming about Tyson’s invitation to come to the Brighton Centre. I sat gloomily eating my last gateau, wondering what line the editor would take on Tyson’s presence.

I should have had more confidence. Within 2 hours on Monday morning the wheels were in motion. Thirty six hours of intense pressure on the Council followed, producing more rapid changes of gear than you’d see in the Tour de France. By Tuesday evening, in the midst of Shrove Tuesday pancakes, I learned that the booking had been cancelled.

“It’s a knock out!” chortled my husband. He always makes the pancakes on Shrove Tuesday – an ‘unmanly’ activity of which I am sure Mike Tyson would not approve.

My husband’s attitude to manhood couldn’t be more different to Tyson’s. He abhors violence and would always prefer to avoid a fight – unless there is no alternative. I’m sure that if ever my daughter or I were attacked it would be a different matter, but if the threat is to him, he’d rather leg it.

One of my earliest memories of my husband, long before were married, is seeing him, after a political meeting, sprinting as fast as his long legs could carry him away from a small group of wheezing, overweight and fairly drunken National Front supporters. They could get nowhere near my teetotal and (then) very slim husband. It was frightening, but very funny.

Tyson on the other hand said in 1988: “I love to hit people. I love to. Most celebrities are afraid someone’s going to attack them. I want someone to attack me. No weapons. Just me and him. I like to beat men and beat them bad.” He added: “When I fight someone, I want to break his will. I want to take his manhood. I want to rip out his heart and show it to him.” And in 1986: “I try to catch them right on the tip of his nose because I try to punch the bone into the brain.”
Tyson’s attitude to women has been problematic. In 2002, he told an astonished female journalist “ I normally don’t do interviews with women unless I fornicate with them. So you shouldn’t talk any more…”
As early as 1986, a sales clerk in an Albany, N.Y., shopping mall complained that Tyson had become violent when she rebuffed his sexual advances. Later the same night, Tyson was ejected from a nearby cinema following a similar complaint.
In 1987, Tyson allegedly tried to kiss a woman in a parking lot, and hit the attendant who came to the woman’s aid. Tyson was charged with misdemeanor assault and battery and assault with a deadly weapon, but settled out of court.

In 1988 Tyson’s wife, the actress Robin Givens, publicly accused Mike Tyson of domestic violence. He denied it saying “Anyone with a grain of sense would know that if I punched my wife I would rip her head off. It’s all lies. I have never laid a finger on her.” However, during a subsequent joint television interview, in which she repeated the allegations, he did not deny it.

In 1990 a New York City civil court found for a woman called Sandra Miller after an incident of ‘battery’ in which Tyson grabbed her breasts, insulted and propositioned her.

Nine months later, in his hotel room, he raped Desiree Washington, an 18 year old Miss Black America contestant. Despite the unremitting efforts of Tyson’s defence team to discredit the naïve and very inexperienced victim, he was convicted.

Tyson was sentenced to 6 years in prison, of which he served 3. He has shown no remorse and made no apology to his victim, who now lives in virtual retirement.

In 1997, during the third round of a title fight, Tyson was disqualified and suspended for I year after biting off a one-inch portion of Evander Holyfield’s right ear.

In 1999 he was sentenced to 1 year in prison, 2 years probation and 200 hours community service for assaulting 2 motorists. His bodyguards claimed they had to pull him off the victims. In June 2000, following the final bell, he knocked down the referee in order to continue punching opponent Lou Savarese.

A 2002 press conference to announce his fight with Lennox Lewis ended in an all-out brawl.
During another press conference in 2002 this deeply disturbed man told reporters: “I wish that you guys had children so I could kick them in the fucking head or stomp on their testicles so you could feel my pain.”

In June 2003 it was alleged that Tyson beat up 2 autograph seekers. A month later a bodyguard filed a complaint that Tyson had punched him twice in the face, breaking an orbital bone. And in the same year, Tyson denounced and threatened Desiree Washington, saying “(she is) just a lying, reptilian, monstrous, young lady. I just hate her guts. She put me in that state where, I don’t know, I really wish I did now. Now I really do want to rape her and her fucking mama.”

It is a mystery why Greenwood Promotions considered this man a suitable role model for young boys and amateur boxers. Tyson was an awesome fighting machine, but not a great boxer in the mould of Joe Louis or Mohammed Ali. No truly great fighter says he wants tear other men’s hearts out, rape women or stamp on the testicles of children.

Could it be that his very notoriety sells tickets? There is no doubt that his violent reputation appeals to a certain sort of ‘fan’. Violent affray (in which he was not involved) followed a recent public appearance he made in Derby.

Another mystery is why the Council agreed to it. It’s hard to believe that the Council would ever have accepted such a booking – or issued such fatuous official statements when complaints began – if the invited celebrity had, for example, been convicted of homophobic or racist violence. So why was it so unprepared for the political fallout from this invitation to a violent sex offender?

As soon as he learned of the booking, Brighton Pavilion MP David Lepper condemned it and called on the Home Office to bar Tyson from the UK. In contrast, Council Leader Simon Burgess did not immediately call for cancellation and initially seemed to accept Tyson’s protestations of innocence, making reference to ‘”miscarriages of justice against black men in the USA.”.

Not for the first time a ‘liberal’ white man forgot that women are subject to discrimination as well as black men and that Tyson’s victim was a black woman who, in a US court, suffered the double whammy of both racism and sexism.

A cursory internet search by council officers should have revealed that this was not a man who could with any credibility – as Simon Burgess requested – “condemn sex and violent crimes” or tell “boys and men that violence outside the ring is wrong, and that total respect for women is a non-negotiable part of being a real sportsman”.

In fact, Simon Burgess’ statement revealed a glaring weakness at the heart of the council’s equalities agenda. It exposed a failure to take sexual violence – and arguably sexism itself – seriously. In fact, these days you’d be hard put to find the word ‘sexist’ in any council leaflet or strategy document – though the words ‘homophobic’ and ‘racist’ are everywhere to be found. It’s therefore hardly surprising that Council staff accepted the booking without apparently considering the outrage it might cause to women and victims of sexual assault..

The government gives no better lead, despite the widespread incidence of rape in this country. The Home Office’s own guidelines suggest foreigners convicted of such serious offences should be barred from the country. But they have allowed Tyson in, more than once.

Just days ago I was sent details of 2 young Ugandan women who were repeatedly raped and tortured in Uganda. Their mother was shot in front of them. The Home Office has refused their application for asylum and they await deportation.

I want to know why the Home Office rejects women such as these, but, in the face of widespread public disquiet, continues to welcome violent men like Mike Tyson.

It is more than a mystery. It is a travesty of justice.

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