Normally, media credentialing for boxing matches is a subject of bellybutton gazing that doesn’t warrant even a passing mention. For Mayweather vs Pacquiao, it turned into a mainstream media story, of all things.
That’s because Rachel Nichols of CNN and Michelle Beadle of ESPN — who have put a spotlight on Floyd Mayweather’s domestic violence history — went public with remarks that they had been denied credentials.
We’re still sorting through what, exactly, happened there. And we’ll ruminate on it some below, too, and some other issues related to Mayweather vs Pacquiao credentialing. And then we’ll talk about what a general disaster boxing credentialing is.
Even now, we have some ambiguity about what happened with the Nichols and Beadle credentials. On the balance, from where I’m sitting, there’s evidence enough of some untoward doings by the Mayweather camp to refuse credentials to reporters who delved at length into his record of domestic violence.
Kelly Swanson, a Mayweather spokeswoman, said on Friday they “have credentials and still have them,” but it’s not clear whether she was talking about them having credentials for earlier in the week rather than Saturday night, and whether they ended up “hav(ing) them” for Saturday as a result of the reversals of some decisions.
Nichols said a CNN producer was told she would be denied a credential; we don’t have info on who the producer is, nor do we have a rebuttal by Swanson to this point. There was also the seating chart evidence, and some reporting by Jeremy Schaap citing an unnamed source, that suggests she was denied, the latter of which has been addressed by other unnamed sources.
In Beadle’s case, she said she had an e-mail about her denial of a credential, but there’s also this whole mess about her working for both HBO and ESPN.
Ideally, both sides would just air any documentary evidence they have in public. Since the fight spilled out into the public and became newsworthy, we have a series of claims and counterclaims and it’s difficult to assess based on what’s out there.
That said, the anecdotal evidence doesn’t look good for Mayweather and his team on this. Besides the above, there was the denial of a credential for Thomas Hauser and Martin Rogers, both of whom have dived into the Mayweather domestic violence record. There might be mitigating circumstances in both those cases I don’t have direct knowledge of, but they point toward a trend.
In general, there’s certainly cause for a reasonable person to think that extensive coverage of Mayweather’s criminal history is a reason for getting a credential denied, and that’s wrong.
Meanwhile, Katie Couric does an interview with Mayweather that leads to some new allegations against Mayweather’s baby mama and domestic violence victim Josie Harris by Mayweather himself that then triggers a lawsuit, and Couric doesn’t seem to have any trouble getting a seat — although, interestingly and little-noticed, it seems like maybe she was feeling queasy later about all this and didn’t attend.
Now, it must be noted that no one has the right to a credential. It’s up to the promoters of a fight to decide who gets to attend. But as others have said, if you deny a credential to someone for the content of their reporting, you better be prepared to catch heat for it.
There are things that make the Beadle/Nichols cases less sympathetic. From what I’ve read (but I haven’t tracked down the original source material) both have called for boycotts of Mayweather fights, which — I dunno, it’s hard for me to imagine anyone welcoming a reporter to press row who actively campaigns to undermine a fight financially, which goes a ways beyond speaking out in an opinionated fashion. Not saying they should be denied for it, just that it makes their case less sympathetic. Likewise, Beadle’s comments here on Mayweather — “Fits the MO. Wants to control everything. Shut up any opposition. I’m not one of his baby’s mothers though” — suggest she looks down on the domestic violence victims. Not a great approach for looking sincere.
Here’s a secondary note about all this. CNN had slots for three people on press row that we know of. ESPN probably had many more. I’m not sure what the threshold is, but maybe there comes a time when you don’t get to demand several credentials to the biggest fight of the decade and regular boxing beat reporters are denied. Again, they shouldn’t have denied anyone for what they reported, but overall these guys take up a lot of seats on press row.
Longtime beat reporter David Avila was so upset by being left out in the cold (or, in this case, the heat) in a tent that he vowed to stop covering Mayweather Promotions and “Premier Boxing Champions” cards. Some of his grievances sound legitimate. At the same time, he’s also now vowing to ban covering a lot of the sport over getting a shitty deal at just one of those cards, which seems a little much. Ultimately, though, it should give all the mainstream reporters a bit of perspective.
Media complaints about their credentials can come off a little entitled, which is kind of why it’s not a subject I’ve written about much. After all, the media basically watches fights for free when they do get a credential, and some writers eat the free food at the buffet, while fans who attend have to pay out the nose for their ticket and arena-fare dining. So, the following complaints are made with an appreciation of the media advantages in mind.
Most of the time, the process goes just fine for TQBR. But there are some things that are serially problematic, some of which affect us and some of which are just general issues.
For instance, many writers don’t get approval for their credential until the week of the fight. Imagine, if you’re worried that you won’t get a credential for a fight where you have to travel, having either bought an airplane ticket and finding out you don’t have a seat, or else having to wait until the last minute to buy an airplane ticket and paying a ton more for said ticket. It ain’t optimal. I don’t really have a point of comparison for other sports, so maybe this is just an ordeal everywhere.
Then, best of luck actually being able to connect to the Internet sitting on press row. I’ve heard explanations about why the Wi-Fi is so bad, nothing I’ve ever gone to great trouble to confirm and report, but you’d think this would be a priority for promoters to fix at all costs. You have the media there taking up prime real estate on the floor, because you hope to get some publicity for your event. Then, the writers can’t write reliably in real time. So, it’s self-defeating for everyone.
It’s rare but not unheard of for an outlet or writer who writes unfavorable things about the fight, fighter or promoter to get denied. Most of the time, when TQBR used to get denied, it was because we were new. These days, we don’t have trouble.
We did get blacklisted by one promoter for about four months. An ex-writer had penned a satirical, Onion-style piece that focused on one promoter but also mentioned another. The piece went unnoticed for forever, and then outta nowhere we were banned with no explanation. I had to bug the heck out of the promoter to get an answer about why, and then when I found out it was because of this old joke article from a writer who hadn’t been with the site for a while, and I was befuddled. Because I was worried about my team getting blacklisted for an article I chose to publish, I did say, “I’m sorry, it was a joke gone wrong, I take responsibility, an article like that wouldn’t appear on the site again because the writer is gone,” and I still feel a little weird about having said that, as though I compromised my principles to apologize for something I thought was innocuous, although I never really said what exactly I was apologizing for (I was, it must be said, genuinely sorry that it caused anybody pain, cuz I thought the joke was just a joke and didn’t anticipate it getting under anyone’s skin like that). I never retracted the article, either, and never would. Some consolation, I guess.
So while you’re busting your hump trying to cover the fight, either by getting a credential at all or trying to write a story while you’re on press row, you look around and see who’s getting credentials and not doing anything with them.
Once upon a time, I started reporting out a project about who actually shows up to the fights they’re credentialed for, and who actually writes anything about them that day or shortly thereafter. I eventually abandoned it because of the aforementioned bellybutton gazing nature of it, and because it was time intensive reporting on a subject that maybe would appeal only to other boxing writers.
Because I didn’t finish reporting, I’m not going to name names. Here’s a sample, though: In one of the fights I documented, a little less than half of the print/other written media didn’t ever file a report on the fight card afterward, so far as I could determine. At one of the fights, one outlet, which isn’t a boxing outlet at all, had FOUR credentials, and none of the writers ever showed up or wrote anything that I could find. At two of the fights, a writer was in attendance for a publication that no longer exists, and hadn’t existed for some time. At two of the fights, a writer who had apparently never written for the outlet through which he was credentialed appeared, as he often does; the outlet had mentioned his name in a news story about boxing once, but otherwise he never showed up in the archives.
And then you hear about other journos who would actually cover the fight if they got the chance instead of being denied a credential, and it’s a little galling.
Ugh, bellybuttons are gross. Time to abruptly stop looking at ’em for tonight.