Undefeated boxer, Floyd Mayweather, Jr. has been called out for many things, but mocking his reading ability may not be too helpful. Floyd “Money” Mayweather is no stranger to the headlines. He has had some issues with domestic violence and recently, he had a highly publicized issue with rapper, TI. Currently, he happens to be the subject of a lot of cruel jokes for struggling to read while doing an interview on Power 105. The station’s DJ recently released what some call a humiliating audio tape of Mayweather stumbling through what proved to be some particularly challenging words.
Rapper 50 Cent then joined the fray by challenging Mayweather to read something out of a Harry Potter novel. In the meantime, people have taken to Twitter with cruel and damaging tweets probably meant to be funny. Floyd Mayweather, Jr. might not be considered the guy next door, but the jokes and taunts mocking his reading problem are not likely to be helpful.
At age 37, Mayweather, ranked among the world’s highest paid athletes, earned over a $100 million dollars last year. The boxer’s early life was troubled. Both his mother and his father struggled with their own personal demons, but his father introduced him to boxing at an early age. He took off from there. He received his first pair of boxing gloves at around seven years of age. After winning three Golden Gloves championships, Mayweather took home an Olympic medal in 1996. In the same year, he turned to professional boxing. His current 46-0 record attests to his success in the boxing arena.
In response to 50 Cent, Mayweather posted a picture of two checks totaling over $72 million dollars and while success, at that level, is wonderful for the boxer, illiteracy in America is no laughing matter. According to ProLiteracy, a group which believes, “every adult has a right to literacy,” about 36 million adults in the U.S. only read at a third grade level. An adult population struggling to read and unable to fill out a simple job application weakens the economy. Adults who struggle with reading are unlikely to be savvy about mortgage applications, pamphlets related to health care or insurance or any other legal documents.
Statistics show that illiteracy impacts crime rates and teenage pregnancy rates, but there is an impact on individuals as well. Individuals who cannot read often compensate in ingenious ways. A person may get someone else to fill out an application or they might copy the information they need for their jobs and take it home for a spouse or a child to read to them. Often the parent who cannot read will make excuses when it is time to help with homework.
Whatever may have caused the illiteracy, many adults are ashamed to admit that they have a problem. There is a fear of being found out that likely prevents some from seeking help. Shaming anyone who cannot read but especially celebrities like Floyd Mayweather does not appear to be an effective solution to the problem. It is possible that the public embarrassment of Floyd Mayweather will make those who struggle with literacy even more reluctant to reveal their issue for fear of being shamed. Floyd Mayweather might not be everyone’s favorite guy, but mocking his reading problem does not seem helpful to him or to anyone else who struggles with this problem.
Opinion by Constance Spruill