Friday, October 22, 2010

Rehabbing Mike Tyson's image, part 2 (by Suzie)

When sports figures commit crimes, the news often runs in sports sections. The logic is: The sports reporters and readers will have a greater interest in and knowledge of the offender. The problem is: They often care more about his ability to return to the game, and any victim may be seen as an impediment.

On 9/3, I wrote about male journalists rehabbing Mike Tyson's image. Then came the latest, by award-winning AP sports columnist Tim Dahlberg, who wrote about "the meteoric rise and fall of the ferocious fighter the world was always so infatuated with." Who comprises "the world"? Not Desiree Washington after he raped her. Not Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick, who represented her in her civil suit. Not the other women who have accused him of assault.

In 2009, after Tyson's daughter died in an accident, Dahlberg wrote: "A changed man or not, he’s still reviled by many as the fighter who once bit off a piece of Evander Holyfield’s ear and threatened to eat Lennox Lewis’ children." Why isn't he reviled for rape? Because fans revile Washington, threaten violence against her, and insist she's a liar? Or, is it that what male sports heroes do to women is beside the point? What role do sportswriters play?

In a 2007 column headlined "Maybe it's time to give Mike Tyson one last chance," Dahlberg argued that Tyson shouldn't have to go to jail for driving under the influence and cocaine possession.
Prosecutor Andrew Thomas cited Tyson's rape conviction in Indianapolis and a 1999 jail term in Maryland in labeling him a repeat offender with a violent past. That's his job, but it got laughable when Thomas said he believes Tyson must be put in prison to "properly protect the public."

One look at the bizarre tattoo on his face will tell you Tyson is a troubled soul, but he's about as much a danger to the public as he is a threat to win the heavyweight title once again. ...

Before his latest arrest, he hadn't gotten into any real trouble in eight years. And an argument could be made that had he hired Kobe Bryant's attorneys he might have skated on the sexual assault charges that landed him in prison for three years in a "he said, she said" case that was strikingly similar to the one faced by Bryant.
In those eight years, three women accused him of rape in 2001 and another accused him of beating her in 2005. Perhaps Dahlberg didn't count this as real trouble because it was only women's words against Tyson's, and he skated. Dahlberg feels no threat from the man he has come to know over the many years that he has written about him. I guess that means an attractive female sportswriter should not hesitate to pal around with Tyson, just like the guys have.