A Readable Moment

By Johnathan Lee Iverson on August 25, 2014
A Readable Moment
The Oprah in me would like to believe Mayweather would see this as an opportunity.

I can’t help but believe that behind the brash and the obsession with wealth is that terrified poor kid from Michigan…

There’s always one. That kid who deflects our attention either through humor, wit, intimidation, or raw brilliance from an embarrassing truth. I remember that kid well. He was the class clown, who’d have you in stitches, even managing to conjure a chuckle or two from the teacher. But, there are but so many jokes before the truth comes is revealed. There he was, for all to see and hear, as if caught red-handed for an egregious offense. Suddenly he wasn’t so funny. Suddenly he was tragically human. Every word he uttered was laborious and painful to hear. Words he should have known at least two, even three grades ago are a struggle to emit. A strained silence envelopes the class, accompanied by confusion, shock, even empathy. However, that will soon be overshadowed by the cruelty of children.

Recent allegations of Floyd Mayweather’s struggles with literacy abound, due to former best friend now antagonist Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson’s rather unique ALS challenge. The allegations seemed to be confirmed after Power 105’s “The Breakfast Club” aired an archival recording of Mayweather reading, rather attempting to read a promotional “drop” for the station. The painful rendering has since gone viral. The cynic in me clearly sees this as Karma. Mayweather has made his fortune demeaning others leading up to his bouts, which one can write off as gamesmanship. However, if you’ve ever tuned into All Access or his social media exploits one will see this “gamesmanship” extends beyond actual opponents, as has been the case with Manny Pacquiao, Andre Ward, or a member of the Money Team. 

The social justice side of me rejects the notion that there is anything particularly funny about illiteracy. This sudden revelation of Mayweather’s literacy woes testifies to the greater reality that there are many other athletes, particularly at the collegiate level whose only worth is their physical prowess. One can relegate such a dilemma to a form of slavery. If not for their bodies, what are they without an adequate education? This might explain Mayweather’s legendary commitment to his craft. Perhaps this fear is what drives him. He is one punch, one career ending injury away from a frightening reality. I can’t help but believe that behind the brash and the obsession with wealth is that terrified poor kid from Michigan, with a severely limited education, who knows if not for those gifted hands, he’s back to that overcrowded, underserved, dilapidated square one.

Education is liberty. The more you know the more you grow, the more you learn the more you earn, goes the adage. These bodies will betray, but education last a lifetime. The Oprah in me would like to believe Mayweather would see this moment as an opportunity. Now that he’s been outed, I believe he can do with this, as he is renowned for in the ring, deflecting what is meant to devastate him and countering with a powerful shot of his own. Imagine what would happen if Floyd Mayeather Jr. owned this moment? Imagine the impact the world’s richest athlete and boxing’s brightest star could have if he didn’t just flash a massive check in reply, but actually committed himself to becoming literate and by doing so inspire other public figures to come forward?

Hi, I’m Floyd Mayweather and I have a literacy problem.

Make no mistake, Mayweather, is not an anomaly, just take a gander at the social media musings of his fellow celebrities, including 50 Cent. It’s not like they are paragons of literacy either. Just think of the broad light he could shine on the inequities of our education system particularly when it comes to the poor, even further exposing the absurdity of many college athletic programs’ claims to encourage student athleticism? Mayweather has nothing to be ashamed of. When you consider his backstory, the legendary dysfunction that is his family, the fact that he is where he is is the stuff of miracles. The shame would be if he ignored this moment completely and continued to peddle the lie that because he has a hefty bank account, for now, that somehow that’s all that matters. He would be failing himself, he would be failing his family, and the community of impressionable souls, both young and old who’d like to believe that lie.

As I see it, Mayweather has a tremendous opportunity to join that rare breed of star athlete who can transcend his sport socially. Affording him the opportunity to not simply be a significant sports figure, but a man of significance.

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Floyd Mayweather Jr Struggles To Read A Drop For Power 105's The Breakfast Club

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  1. Clarence George 01:34pm, 08/27/2014

    Which reminds me of “12 Angry Men” (the best-acted movie of all time), when Juror #10 (Ed Begley) says, “Bright?  He’s a common ignorant slob.  He don’t even speak good English.”

  2. danny sy 01:15pm, 08/27/2014

    it’s a fact , loads of athletes can’t crack academics but earn loads of money. If he can’t read, sure he can’t spell but still has the audacity he’d criticised Manny Pacquiao   saying ” He doesn’t speak no English”
    If our purpose in this world to earn money and live comfortably Floyd is way far ahead, I’m highly educated but ain’t got no dough

  3. Clarence George 04:11am, 08/27/2014

    Good point, AKT.  I received a communication from Kelly Swanson of Swanson Communications yesterday, saying, “I have worked with Floyd Mayweather since 2005 and feel it is only right that I come to his defense.  The unfair reports that Floyd cannot read, which have been posted on social media by various individuals and reported by certain media outlets, are simply not true…I believe it is extremely unfair for people to make claims against others that are unfounded and hence, filled with malice.”  Fair enough, but so what?  While everyone should have basic reading skills, it doesn’t much matter in Floyd’s case.  Not a whole lot of reading required in the Sweet Science.  Besides, he’s rich, which is relevant in the sense that he doesn’t have to apply for a job.  It’s Fifty Cent who’s made an ass of himself, coming across like a schoolyard bully.  Anyway, this story has had its 15 minutes…and then some.

  4. AKT 02:04am, 08/27/2014

    Whoa whoaa!! hold your horses people - Since when did it become an established fact that Floyd Mayweather cannot read? It still is speculation. Just because someone jumbles over a few words in a studio does not mean they are illiterate. Steven Spielberg, Whoopi Goldberg, Charles Schwab (and Lewis Carroll when he was around) all have some form of reading difficulty. It doesn’t make them illiterate. It is very plausible that anyone comes across ‘not-too-regularly-encountered’ words (possibly because reading is not a habit) and has difficulty pronouncing them. But to go as far putting a label on someone based 1 situation. Come on now!

  5. Eric 08:03am, 08/26/2014

    Looked at some of the comments on Youtube with this video. One suggested that Floyd challenge Fitty to throwing a baseball into a catcher’s mitt. After that epic first pitch by Fitty, it probably isn’t wise for Fitty to start making fun of Floyd’s reading skills. That pitch was so pathetic, it isn’t that easy to forget. Another commenter wrote that if he had as much money as Floyd, he would invent his own language, buy an island and hire the natives to read, write, and speak it.

  6. Irish Frankie Crawford Beat Saijo aka Gimpel 06:39am, 08/26/2014

    Better to get a couple of Harry Potter books….which reminds me….what’s the up roar all about….....Congressperson Sheila Jackson Lee is illiterate and has an IQ of 65 but that hasn’t held her back….in fact it has endeared her to her constituents…..the shittier and more stupid she behaves the more they love her…...go figure…...no wait….don’t bother.

  7. Pete The Sneak 04:48am, 08/26/2014

    Nicely written article…Literacy issues, along with not being very bright are things I can certainly equate with. If not for some very caring people who saw something in me, I would probably be looking at only the pictures of this site and if I did want to comment it would be with a bunch of XXX’s…While I agree with the author that it would certainly be a tremendous opportunity for FMJ to transcend the sport by publically coming clean about his alleged literacy, I just don’t see that happening. FMJ is all about selling himself to today’s entertainment business and coming on TV to do public spots about how I can’t read will lose him some serious Street Cred’s…However, I can see him on ALL ACCESS saying “yeah, I may not be able to read very well, but all I need are basic math skills to count up my millions” as he begins to count out hundreds. Yeah, that I can see…Peace.

  8. Clarence George 02:54am, 08/26/2014

    No disrespect to the author, his well-written article, or his sincerely held views, but if I had good money I’d pay it to ensure that Mayweather not become a preachy and lachrymose poster boy for literacy and education.  Can’t stand that sort of thing myself.  Well I remember, and with considerable shuddering, the series of pontificating public service announcements known as “The More You Know.”  There was one in particular where it was all I could do not to throw my set from the window, the one with David Schwimmer (a nothing actor with the IQ of a doorknob) informing us that King Tut, in addition to being an extraordinary kid, also had extraordinary teachers.  The fatuous and anti-historical implication that the boy king ascended the throne because of his mastery of “The Little Chariot That Could,” rather than because of the right of ascension, had me seeing red.  Appropriately, as red was an important color in ancient Egypt.  Now how did I know that?  Did I, too, have extraordinary teachers?  Yeah, right.

  9. Irish Frankie Crawford Beat Saijo aka Gimpel 07:11pm, 08/25/2014

    He can read….what he needs to do is get a tutor on the QT….and a couple of Peter Potter books…..devote no more than 10% of the effort he does to effin’ around…..get up to speed whether it takes six weeks or six months then take up Jackson’s ALS challenge.

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