An advertisement starring convicted rapist and self-confessed domestic violence perpetrator Mike Tyson is airing during the Australian Open.
An advertisement starring convicted rapist and self-confessed domestic violence perpetrator Mike Tyson is airing during the Australian Open. Isaac Brekken

Mike Tyson advert is a sucker punch for violence survivors

Journalist SHERELE MOODY says an advertisement starring Mike Tyson normalises violence and should be dropped.

THE decision by Ultra Tune to hire rapist and woman basher Mike Tyson to flog its products, Channel 7 to air the advertisement and Tennis Australia to allow the 30-second promotion's broadcast during the Australian Open is as dangerous as it is ethically and morally repugnant.

Mike Tyson's appalling history with women has been well documented, so it's highly unlikely the people behind these organisations are not aware of the former heavyweight boxing champion's bloody past.

He was convicted of raping teenager Desiree Washington in 1991, spending three years behind bars for this crime.

Tyson also subjected his former wife Robin Givens to extreme brutality during their marriage, even having the gall to boast about bashing her in his biography. 

"It was when I fought Robin in Steve Lott's apartment. She really offended me and I went BAM. She flew backwards, hitting every wall in the apartment. That was the best punch I've ever thrown in my entire life," Tyson says in Fire and Fear: The Inside Story of Mike Tyson.

Tyson has also told media outlets about beating up female sex workers he had hired.

Yet, despite all this, Ultra Tune and its CEO Sean Buckley decided the 52-year-old thug was the perfect person to front an advertisement that is being broadcast into millions of lounge rooms during one of Australia's greatest sporting events.

To add insult to injury, Channel Seven profits from this normalisation of violence by running the advert during the Australian Open broadcast and Tennis Australia stands idly by, failing to call out its major broadcast partner for allowing a rapist into our homes.

 

Mike Tyson in the latest Ultra Tune advertisement.
Mike Tyson in the latest Ultra Tune advertisement. Ultra Tune

Whitewashing a violent man's past

TYSON, his friends, family and fans claim he was falsely convicted in the Washington rape case - but declaring one's innocence is not unusual in cases of sexual violence.

His supporters also say he is rehabilitated, pointing to the fact that it's been a long time since he has committed an act of violence.

He has been embraces as an icon of pop culture, starring in box office hits like The Hang Over series, the Scary Movie franchise, Rocky Balboa - alongside Sylvester Stallone - and a number of other films.

He is also a regular on late-night chat shows and TV programs like the long-running Law and Order: Special Victim's Unit.

In his latest appearance in front of the cameras, Tyson comes to the rescue of three scantily-clad "bimbos" who have smashed their car.

The advert presents an abusive man as your everyday nice guy - a funny, kind and generous good Samaritan, willingly embraced by a trio of young impressionable woman.

They seem to be no older than Desiree Washington was when Tyson raped her at 18 years old.

I sent a request for comment to Ultra Tune and Mr Buckley, asking them directly why they hired a man with Tyson's history.

I also asked if they had they received any complaints about the advert and did they plan to continue using him in their promotions.

Ultra Tune did not respond. But that's no surprise, given the company has a history of rolling out sexist advertisements often referred to the Australian Advertising Standards Bureau for being offensive.

In 2016, Ultra Tune was forced to dump an advertisement after the bureau found it "vilified" and discriminated against women. That advertisement, and Ultra Tune's 2014 promo, topped the Bureau's yearly lists of most complained about promos.

The Bureau confirmed on Thursday that it had received about 70 complaints regarding the Tyson promo, but a spokesperson said a decision about whether or not it breached Australian standards was at least two weeks away.

Each year, Mr Buckley denies his Unexpected Situation series of ads - including the new one - are offensive.

Buckley has spoken publicly about the Tyson advert but he has not addressed the decision to give the boxer a platform despite his violent past.

"We get targeted because we put some attractive girls in a commercial and we're sexist. Why single us out? Because we're a male-oriented car servicing company doing something a little bit different," he told News.com.au earlier this year.

Buckley claimed it was an appropriate decision, even in light of the world-wide #metoo movement that has been shining an extremely and uncomfortably bright light on sexual violence and abuse against women, particularly in the entertainment industry.

"As to ... the #MeToo movement, I don't see that ad being disempowering to women," Mr Buckley said.

"I think it's a storm in a teacup.

"Maybe some of the other ads we ran might have some sexism in them, but this one certainly doesn't."

It's also worth noting that Ultra Tune blasted Channel 7's Sunrise on January 12, following an interview with Tyson that did not go to the company's plans.

The Sunrise hosts were expected to follow a prescribed set of questions when interviewing their man, Ultra Tune said on its Facebook page.

Instead journalist Natalie Barr went right off the feel-good PR track, subjecting Tyson to an "inappropriate line of questioning".

This "inappropriate line of questioning"? Asking the American sporting icon about violence against women,  what it's like to star in sexist advertisements and the impact sexism might have on his own daughter when she grows up.

While Barr did not ask Tyson about his violent past, Ultra Tune told its Facebook followers on January 12 that it had forced the network to remove the interview from its website (you can watch it on YouTube though).

Channel Seven refused to address the issue of airing a promotion featuring Tyson, saying instead that it was satisfied the promo did not breach industry guidelines.

"Our viewers can be assured that all commercials are carefully vetted by Commercials Advice before they go to air, and this Ultra Tune ad does meet all the industry codes and standards," a Seven spokesman said in the company's one-line response to my questions.

Tennis Australia did not respond to a request for comment.

 

Desiree Washington (left) was raped by Mike Tyson when she was 18. She is pictured here with US TV host Barbara Walters
Desiree Washington (left) was raped by Mike Tyson when she was 18. She is pictured here with US TV host Barbara Walters MALCOLM CLARKE

Normalising violence despite the sad statistics

PLACING people like Mike Tyson into significant media roles normalises and legitimises rape and other violence.

This advertisement is being watched by impressionable children and young people and statistics show many these kids will be exposed to violence from an early age.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics and other reputable research organisations have consistently shown that regardless of your gender, you are more likely to be harmed or killed by a man than a woman in Australia.

The ABS's latest Personal Safety Survey shows one in five Aussie women (that's 18 per cent of the female population aged over 15 or 1.7 million people) and one in 20 men (4.7 per cent or 428,800) have experienced sexual violence.

And non-sexual violence? Well, the figures are just as appalling. The survey shows four in 10 men (41 per cent or 3.7 million) and three in 10 women (31 per cent or 2.9 million) have been assaulted.

Meanwhile, 14 Australians have been murdered this year - that's five people killed a week since January 1, 2018.

Femicide Australia Project research also shows 10 of the people killed in the past three or so weeks were adult males. Four were adult females.

Twelve of these violent deaths involved alleged male violence and two involved alleged female perpetrators.

Domestic violence is a factor in six of the killings.

Last year more than 170 Australians lost their lives to violence - with 82 per cent of those charged being male.

These figures are the reason why it is so gob-smackingly incredible that no one at Ultra Tune, Channel Seven or Tennis Australia has put a halt to the broadcast of this advertisement.

 

Ultra Tune CEO Sean Buckley with Mike Tyson.
Ultra Tune CEO Sean Buckley with Mike Tyson. Ultra Tune

Businesses have a role in ending violence

THE reality is, we are unlikely to see the end of male violence in Australia during my lifetime or even in the lifetime of today's kindergarten kids.

But we can take steps now to de-normalise abusive behaviour in the hopes that there will be a time when all little boys grow into non-violent men.

We don't give kids money or a pedestal to stand on when they are naughty because we know that rewarding bad behaviour will lead to more bad behaviour.

When business leaders decide to pay people like Tyson to sell products and services, they tell boys and men "sure there might be a few short-term ramifications like court and jail when you bash and rape woman, but in the end all will be forgiven and one day, you too could be paid the big bucks to sell products and services".

On the flipside, girls and women are given the impression that their safety is of lesser value to the profile of abusers because violent men are just misunderstood forgivable good guys who deserve to be on TV.

Many Australian businesses are taking a stand against abuse by offering domestic violence leave, providing grants to people fleeing abusive partners, having their staff take part in education programs, embracing national events like White Ribbon Day and sponsoring services at the coalface of the nation's family abuse epidemic.

It's a crying shame that Ultra Tune - a brand most of us recognise - has decided to go down the opposite path and that Seven and Tennis Australia are not brave enough to draw a line in the sand when it comes to profiting off men like Tyson.

News Corp journalist Sherele Moody is the recipient of 2017 Clarion and Walkley Our Watch journalism excellence awards for her coverage of domestic violence issues. Sherele is also the founder of The RED HEART Campaign and a member of the Femicide Australia Project.

*For 24-hour domestic violence support call the national hotline 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732.

News Corp Australia


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