Bob McCoskrie: Tyson’s attitudes not role model material

NZ Herald 24 Oct 2012
Willie Jackson argues that Mike Tyson would “motivate our youth to stay out of trouble and find positive ways of using their talents”, and that rather than focus on his “imprisonment for rape and subsequent misfortunes”, we should open our borders to a “reformed man”.

Comments on the Herald website last week argued that “forgiveness is divine”, and to let “he who is without sin can cast the first stone.”

That is all very true. Grace and forgiveness are wonderful gifts – both to the receiver and to the giver. But Jesus also said: “If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him.”

So what has happened in the 20 years since Tyson’s rape conviction? Has he redeemed himself?

Well, to start with, Tyson continues to deny his awful crime. “I didn’t do that f***ing crime,” he told our media angrily.

Only last year, on ESPN Radio, Tyson made grotesque and lewd comments about former US vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin.

As recently as two months ago, Tyson was publicly referring to women, including women he had harmed, as “whores, b****es and tramps”, including the teenager he was convicted of raping – women he claims have victimised him.

He jokes about a former wife’s accusations of domestic violence and not knowing the difference between menstrual blood, miscarriage blood and blood from a rape.

I’m a husband and father of two daughters. As I read those comments, my stomach curdles. I completely reject them. I feel sick that people would talk like that and would hold such views.

Mike Tyson is not a motivational speaker or role model that some would paint him to be or would like him to be. Tyson himself admitted in media interviews relating to his visit that he is just an entertainer. I struggle to affirm that.

Jackson is right to highlight Vic Tamati from the “It’s Not OK” campaign and compare him to Tyson, because their backgrounds are similar. But there the similarity ends.

We know what Tyson now says and thinks. Tamati, on the other hand, speaks in schools and the community renouncing his past and challenging others to also reject violence.

It’s a no-brainer to support calls by groups like Stop Demand and Rape Crisis. Mike Tyson should be denied a visa.

His comments above show that he still has a long way to go in his rehabilitation – part of which is admitting and renouncing the crime he was convicted for, and changing his attitudes towards women.

And even if he was white, Willie, he still wouldn’t qualify.

Maybe one day, Tyson will repent and accept that he committed a crime. Maybe one day he will prove to us that he respects women, and that his words to at-risk young people will be words and attitudes that show respect and value – that reject sexual violence and the objectification and denigration of women. Hopefully that day will be soon.

Then, and only then, will he have the potential to be a role model and worthy of speaking in to peoples’ lives.

The Government is right to reject his visa application, and groups like the Manukau Urban Maori Authority should have done their research better before trying to convince us that Tyson would be of benefit talking to at-risk young people.

If Willie Jackson wants a motivational speaker, he should give Vic a call. But we certainly don’t need Tyson’s kind of attitude being given a red carpet welcome in New Zealand.

Bob McCoskrie is national director of Family First NZ.

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