Tyson Fight in the District?
With Terry O'Neill
Membership Vice President,
National Organization for Women (NOW)
Thursday, Feb. 21, 2002
The D.C. Boxing and Wrestling Commission gave its initial blessing Tuesday to the license application of boxer Mike Tyson, a major step toward a heavyweight title bout with reigning champ Lennox Lewis at MCI Center. The three-member commission unanimously welcomed Tyson's application at a time when four states have opposed bids by the boxer. A formal vote is scheduled for March 12.
Terry O'Neill, membership vice president of NOW, discusses the ramifications of such a decision.
"I'm appalled that the D.C. Boxing Commission granted Mike Tyson a license to box in the District. And I'm outraged that Mayor Anthony Williams supported the license, even going so far as to say that a Tyson fight could have a 'very positive impact on the city,'" said O'Neill in a press release. O'Neill is a feminist attorney, professsor and activist. She has taught at a number of law schools, primarily Tulane University School of Law where she taught feminist legal theory and international women's rights law. As membership vice president she oversees NOW's membership database and direct mail systems, Web site content and legal issues.
The transcript follows.
Editor's Note: Washingtonpost.com moderators retain editorial control over Live Online discussions and choose the most relevant questions for guests and hosts; guests and hosts can decline to answer questions.
Terry O'Neill: Hi. I'm glad to be here to answer any questions you may have about NOW's opposition to the D.C. Boxing Commission's move to grant a boxing license to Mike Tyson.
Washington, D.C.: Correct me if I'm wrong here, but I always thought that NOW was an organization for women's rights.
How exactly is preventing Mike Tyson from boxing here an issue of women's rights?
Terry O'Neill: Mike Tyson has an appalling history of violence against women. He is a convicted rapist, and has been accused of two more rapes in Nevada. Granting a boxing license to Tyson amounts to promoting his career, sending the message to girls and women that their government officials don't care about sexual assaults.
Arlington, Va: Is there any chance your group would campaign against Mayor Williams for his support of the commission and Tyson? As a white male, I find it sickening.
Terry O'Neill: Actually, we want to work with Mayor Williams to help find other ways of improving the District's economic situation. For example, as the Olympics have shown, women's sports have come a long way over the past decade. Why not promote women's sports events here? That would be uplifting for the community, rather than degrading.
Fairfax, Va.: Why don't you just keep your money in your pocket and let those who want to spend their money on Mike Tyson do so? After all, this is a country of choice, right?
Terry O'Neill: It's the District, not merely individuals, who promote Tyson when he gets a license to box here. While individuals are certainly free to spend their money, we object to government officials promoting a man with such a history of attacking women. D.C. residents seem to be as outraged as we are about this.
Washington, D.C.: What can we do to change Mayor William's decision?
Terry O'Neill: Go to www.now.org and click on our Mike Tyson story. You'll be able to send the Mayor a message right away. (The Mayor didn't make the decision, but he has said he supports it. We're hoping that with your help we can change his mind.)
Fairfax, Va.: If this does go through, will NOW and other organizations be protesting outside the MCI Center? 'Cause if so, I'll be there.
But on the other hand, maybe this will draw attention to the problem of violence against women among professional athletes.
Terry O'Neill: Amen to both comments! We will be at the MCI center if the license is granted, and I invite you all to join us. And we will also continue to speak out about the larger issue of violence against women among professional athletes.
Alexandria, Va.: Doesn't NOW have anything better to do than deny this man a right to earn a living? He committed a crime and he paid his debt to society. Would NOW be happier if Mike Tyson was destitute, roaming the streets looking to rob people?
Terry O'Neill: Certainly, after a person has completed a prison sentence he (or she) has the right to earn a living. But there is no right to have one's career promoted by city officials. Besides, Tyson isn't near the poverty level and won't be out on the streets if he is denied this license.
Vienna, Va.: I'm glad to see that SOMEBODY is objecting, and I don't understand why the PTA's, the Girl Scouts (and Boy Scouts), and other organizations that care about children are not objecting. Why do you think this is?
Terry O'Neill: Lots of groups are outraged about this, and are joining us in protesting it. At least one organization, WEAVE, which is active in the movement to end violence against women, has already spoken publicly. I can't speak for the groups you mention, but the growing consensus is that he shouldn't get the license.
Washington DC 20003: I am appalled that DC would even truly consider letting Tyson box in the city. Not only is he a brawling, dirty boxer, he's a convicted rapist, hostile if not dangerous person, and a malcontent.
If the city issues a boxing license to Mr. Tyson, it would send a message to rape survivors and their families that the sadistic behavior of Tyson and others may be overlooked in the pursuit of fame, fortune and economic development.
Fight on, Ms. O'Neill! I'll be there with you!
Terry O'Neill: I couldn't say it better myself. Thanks for your support.
Adams Morgan, D.C.: What are NOW's next steps here? What actions do you suggest your supporters take?
Terry O'Neill: We suggest our supporters contact the Mayor's office and the DC Boxing Commission and express their opposition. We plan to seek a meeting with the Mayor to discuss our concerns. You can also join with local NOW chapters which are organizing to keep the fight from happening.
Beltsville, Md.: I'm a conservative twenty-something woman who doesn't agree with most of what your organization stands for. But I hold the same position as you on this issue. It's simply appalling that Tyson was granted a license. It's bad for women, children and men in the District.
Terry O'Neill: Thanks for your support on this issue. I agree with you that it sends a terrible message, not only to girls and women, but also to boys and men. We all need to unite to end violence against women.
Beltsville, Md.: Is there any point to non-DC residents writing the Mayor?
Terry O'Neill: Actually, the NOW office received an email from a woman in California this morning who was embarrassed that our nation's capitol would demean itself by granting Tyson this license. Anyone, anywhere, concerned about this should call or email Mayor Williams and the Boxing Commission.
Arlington, Va.: "but the growing consensus is that he shouldn't get the license. "
Among who? Politically motivated groups who like to see themselves on TV as much as possible to get their message across? I applaud the work that you do, but to turn this into a chance to get your voice heard on NOWs issues is not only demeaning to your cause, but it muddies the very chance to get the license revoked.
A lot of people I know want this fight. The convention industry, the restaurant industry, the hotel industry etc. So don't mislead people with statements like the one you just made.
Terry O'Neill: In fact, the D.C. Board of Trade has announced its opposition. Our government does have an obligation to help these industries and their workers. But promoting a man with his history of violence against women is the wrong way to do this.
Arlington, Va.: I can't believe the people of DC would be in support of that monster even coming near the city. What kind of input is considered from the general population of the city before a decision like this is made? I think it looks shameful for us to accept this fight, when Las Vegas won't even take him. I think that speaks for itself.
Terry O'Neill: I don't think the people of DC do support this. It's government officials who are pushing it. A NOW activist in DC spoke for a lot of the city's residents when she said that using September 11th to justify promoting Mike Tyson was a low blow. I couldn't agree more.
Terry O'Neill: Thanks to everyone who participated in the online chat. I encourage you all to join NOW in opposing the Tyson license and fight. Call us or visit our website, www.now.org, to get involved at either the national or local level.
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