Updated at 7:30 p.m.
So much for boxing’s effort to enter the modern world of big-time sports.
Less than 12 hours before Floyd Mayweather’s Fight of the Century with Manny Pacquiao, there was a dispute over press credentials involving two reporters who claimed that Mayweather’s camp had objected to their presence covering the event. CNN’s Rachel Nichols and Michelle Beadle of ESPN/HBO wrote on Twitter that they had been banned from covering the fight by the fighter’s camp. Nichols connected the dots to the way in which she grilled Mayweather over past domestic violence incidents.
Later in the day, SI.com reported that another reporter was treated similarly.
Mayweather spokesperson Kelly Swanson denied the reporters’ contention that they have been banned.
Swanson, in the media center at the MGM Grand, told USA Today (via Greg Presto):
“I’ll take it as a misunderstanding. But Rachel Nichols was never banned from the event. She’s been credentialed the whole time. She was in here yesterday [media center]. There was a misunderstanding by the credential office as to…they said that she wasn’t credentialed for tonight, however, this shows [a database printout with Nichols’ picture] that she was credentialed all along. So whoever was saying… I don’t know who that was, I had nothing to do with it. And when I saw it, I was like, ‘What is this woman talking about?’ Because she’s always been credentialed, she’s always been welcomed.
“We didn’t even know until late afternoon who was going to be in the arena. CNN received one seat in the arena, and it was up to them to pick who could go in the arena. We could not make that selection. We let those producers decide who they wanted in that seat. She’s always had a credential. She got all of this information. She’s even getting a gift from the promotion. She’s getting a gift bag. She received a letter when credentials were accepted from the promotion, again, that she received a credential. She has been credentialed for this fight.”
Beadle tweeted that she had been “re-approved” late Friday night but had left when her credential was uncertain.
Beadle, reached in Los Angeles, told SI.com’s Richard Deitsch: “There are emails. They lie. It’s their job. But I was banned.”
Nichols explained Saturday evening on Twitter that she would not be attending the fight.
“Have had a bunch of folks asking questions about the Mayweather issue. Here’s what happened: After asking tough questions of Floyd Mayweather on my program, I was not offered press credentials to cover tonight’s fight. In an email dated April 23, I was told I would only be credentialed for the run-up events through the week, but in bold, italic letters the email stated ‘you do not have any access Saturday to any services or events.’ A CNN producer revisited the issue with the Mayweather camp on April 29, confirming to Mayweather’s publicist that I would be in Las Vegas, and the publicist replied that I would still be denied a fight night credential. I was told the same thing when I arrived at the credential office in person on May 1, by two separate officials, in front of several other people. It doesn’t surprise me that now, after facing significant backlash, the Mayweather camp has reversed its position. But despite this, and other outside parties generously offering me their seats, I will not attend the fight. I will also not let fear of retaliation prevent me from asking the tough questions the public deserves answers to in the future.”
Just who controls credentials for the fight? MGM Grand, where it will take place Saturday night.
Nichols, in particular, has been critical of Mayweather’s past. Last fall, she grilled him in an interview about domestic violence and suggested that women should boycott one of his pay-per-view fights then.
Mayweather served two months of a three-month sentence in 2012 after pleading guilty to reduced domestic battery charges stemming from a hair-pulling, arm-twisting attack on his former girlfriend while two of their three children watched. The plea deal allowed him to avoid trial on felony charges that could have gotten Mayweather up to 34 years in prison if convicted.