In the past year, Michelle Beadle has emerged as one of the most important and independent voices at ESPN. When First Take’s Stephen A. Smith suggested that battered women were guilty of provoking their assailants, it was Beadle who offered the most eloquent and vocal denunciation of Smith’s comments. A relative newcomer to boxing, Beadle joined the HBO Boxing team as a special correspondent for its popular sports magazine telecast, The Fight Game, where she brought a fresh and needed perspective to a sport whose audience and media is overwhelmingly older and male. Beadle has been in Las Vegas all week, covering the Mayweather-Pacquiao superfight for both HBO and ESPN. So why won’t she be at the fight tonight?
Because Floyd Mayweather —unabashed misogynist and unrepentant batterer of women—doesn’t want her there. After the Mayweather camp learned that Beadle had publicly condemned Mayweather for his history of violence against women, they—via their network, the CBS-owned Showtime—denied Beadle a press credential for the fight. Mayweather/Showtime also revoked a press credential to CNN’s Rachel Nichols, who relentlessly grilled Mayweather over his history of domestic violence last year. A source closely connected to these events tells Deadspin that Mayweather’s publicist, Kelly Swanson, told producers there’s “no way” Nichols gets in.
Stop and process this for a moment. Showtime has denied press credentials to two of the most prominent reporters for three of the world’s most important television outlets, including HBO, which is co-producing the fight, and ESPN, which has invested huge chunks of its prime schedule this week promoting the fight in infomercial-like fashion. The network also denied credentials to Gawker’s Hamilton Nolan, presumably due to his connection with Deadspin, and widely-read boxing writer, Steve Kim, who has published a number of articles critical of Mayweather’s history of domestic violence. (ESPN’s only response to the denial of access? Stephen A. Smith complaining on-air that Pacquiao is allowed to wear Cleto Reyes boxing gloves, a complaint that was immediately ridiculed by boxing fans who know Reyes is not only Pacquiao’s signature glove, but one of the largest and most common brands in the sport; you can buy them on freaking Amazon.com).
It wasn’t always this way. At last year’s ESPY’s, Beadle engaged in a friendly interview with Mayweather, even telling the fighter, “I like that you live your life.” It was only after that interview that Beadle learned about the Mayweather’s history of abuse. Then, in a remarkably honest moment, Beadle publicly apologized for the light-hearted way she had handled the interview and pledged not to support the fighter in the future. Just before his pay-per-view showdown with Marcos Maidana in September 2014, Beadle tweeted #BoycottMayweather (joining her ESPN colleague Sarah Spain as the first prominent figures to take that position, which has now been echoed by Keith Olbermann and others). In a discussion on The Fight Game, Beadle more fully explained her refusal to buy the fight:
I didn’t pay for it. I wouldn’t pay for it. I, along with many, many, many, many people – we were aware, somewhat, of his past, that he had a pretty bad past. I think in light of everything that’s happened across the board in the NFL and the comments that Mayweather had, I think more research had been done. Now I am FULLY aware of how bad a past this guy has. So, no, I will not be spending any of my money.
This week, however, signs were all that was going forward as planned. Beadle even shot a promo for her coverage of the fight on ESPN, which spoofed the old video game Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out!!. According to our source, it was not until yesterday’s weigh-in that Beadle got the first sign that Showtime was considering denying her access to the event because they were not happy with Beadle’s “ways.”
Beadle’s “ways” are precisely what boxing needs. She brings with her a unique perspective and a huge following of viewers who appreciate her self-effacing sense of humor, honesty and willingness to embrace the casual fans who are too often shunned by establishment boxing journalists. Most importantly, she brought a fearless willingness to speak her mind that is often absent from a sport where access is too often permitted only to those reporters who unhesitatingly tow the party line.
While it is Mayweather’s team that is pulling the strings, it’s Showtime that owes the world an explanation. Why have they continued to sanitize their coverage of Mayweather’s history of domestic violence while continuing to unhesitatingly promote other aspects of his outside-the-ring lifestyle? Why did they allow Mayweather to air a one-sided self-produced infomerical in which he denied any responsibility for his convictions? Why are they blackballing important female journalists for having the temerity to question Mayweather about what everyone else seems to recognize is a legitimate topic; even cartoonish mega-shill Stephen A. Smith admitted that he thinks Mayweather is “probably” guilty after watching ESPN’s Outside the Lines coverage. Mayweather has made it clear that his boxing career will end this year, but Swanson’s relationship with the media, and Showtime’s ambitions to be a major player in the boxing world do not. It will be interesting to see how these events will affect them.
ESPN has not responded to a request for comment.
Update (1:49 p.m.): Kelly Swanson is denying the above reports, while it appears another reporter who has covered Mayweather’s domestic violence past, Martin Rogers, has also had his credential denied.
Update (2:45 p.m.): HBO says Mayweather publicist Kelly Swanson isn’t telling the truth, as the network does not have the authority to issue its own credentials.
Update (3:30 p.m.): Michelle Beadle says she has emails proving Mayweather revoked her credentials to cover the fight. ESPN has no say in the matter, as Beadle was in attendance working for HBO.
Update (5:20 p.m.):
Update (7:45 p.m.): Rachel Nichols has released a statement outlining the multiple times she was denied a fight credential.
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.
Daniel Roberts (IronMikeGallego) is a longtime boxing fan and occasional contributor to Deadspin and SportsOnEarth. He can be found on Twitter @ironmikegallego or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photo credits: Associated Press