Thirty years ago, the legendary sportswriter for The Washington Post, Shirley Povich, quoted a colleague, Jimmy Cannon, who characterized professional boxing as “the red-light district” of sports. It is a sport notoriously awash in bribes, mobsters, and corruption. Should we be surprised that on the solemn day of the remembrance of 9/11, when current President Joe Biden and former Presidents George W. Bush, Barack Obama, and Bill Clinton, were attending memorial programs, former President Donald Trump was found in one of the sporting world’s bordellos?
Trump was a ringside commentator at a boxing match between Evander Holyfield and Vitor Belford. Holyfield, the 58-year-old former heavyweight champion, was refused a boxing license by the state of California, due to the Association of Boxing Commission’s designation of a 58-year-old as having the highest possible risk category for injury in a prizefight. The concept of “risk of injury” in a prizefight is, of course, close to an oxymoron since the whole purpose of the sport is to pummel your opponent into submission — and that’s exactly what happened.
Holyfield returned to the ring in Florida, where the athletic commission has much more relaxed standards than California’s, on September 11, 2021, against Belford, a 44-year-old mixed martial artist and former Ultimate Fighting Champion light heavyweight who has been in only one professional boxing match. It is debatable whether this was a real boxing match or a pay-per-view circus sideshow.
The fight’s promoters, however, thought that credibility would be brought to the spectacle via ringside commentary by former President Trump. Through his involvement, Trump made a mockery of the idea of an ex-president honoring the fallen heroes on the 20th anniversary of the September 11 attacks by spending his evening discussing right hooks and left jabs at the fight at the Hard Rock of Hollywood, Florida. Donald Trump Jr. said that the boxing match offered “a bit of levity” on a “somber day.”
The “match” was stopped by the referee at one minute and 49 seconds into the first round as Holyfield was clearly unable to defend himself. Trump’s participation in the event was enough to make the average person cringe. This is, of course, the same Donald Trump who avoided military service in the Vietnam War via an excuse of heel spurs vouched for by a podiatrist who was a tenant of his father. This is the same Donald Trump who called America’s fallen soldiers “losers,” mocked Senator John McCain’s incarceration as a prisoner-of-war, emboldened white supremacists, as well as aided and abetted insurrection against the lawful government of the United States — maybe nothing should surprise us anymore.
When I was a young member of the faculty at Duke University, I was considering a career in academic administration. I learned a lesson in leadership from then university President H. Keith H. Brodie (1939-2016). The Duke students had invited Brodie to participate in a comedy show. He declined. It wasn’t that he didn’t have a sense of humor, but he said that he had a responsibility to respect the dignity of his office. Whatever one thought of the person occupying the position, he taught, one had to show respect for the presidency. As a steward of the presidency, he felt it was his job to pass it on to his successors unsullied.
Now that I am the leader of a college, I remember President Brodie’s lesson: always show respect for the office. Even if you cannot bring esteem to the office, never do anything to detract from it. When it comes to showing respect for the 2996 people killed on September 11, 2001, and their widows, widowers, and children left without parents; when it comes to showing respect for the first responders who raced into the collapsing World Trade Center and the Pentagon; and when it comes to showing respect to the role of an ex-president of the United States, Donald Trump must have missed that lesson. I am confident that the vast majority of the citizens of this country did not.Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial position of The Globe Post.