Warren Buffett has become one of the richest and most admired men in the world by researching fully before he invests and standing on principle with regard to important issues. This past weekend, he did neither.
On Saturday night, Buffett attended the rematch between Floyd Mayweather and Marcos Maidana at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas and was interviewed in Mayweather's dressing room by Jim Gray of Showtime before the fight.
"It's a real thrill for me to be at a championship boxing match," Buffett said. "Never seen one in my life. I'm 84 years old, so it's about time."
Gray then asked Mayweather, "To have the credibility of this man means what to you?"
"This is someone that I look up to," Mayweather responded. "You know; Warren Buffet, Bill Gates, Mark Cuban; those are the guys that, when I was young, I looked up to."
This followed an earlier visit by Buffett to the Mayweather Boxing Club in Las Vegas, after which Floyd referred to the founder of Berkshire Hathaway as "one of my billionaire friends."
Other people also look up to Warren Buffett. So let's look at what's at stake here.
Over the years, Mayweather has had significant issues with women and the criminal justice system. In 2002, he pled guilty to two counts of domestic violence. In 2004, he was found guilty on two counts of misdemeanor battery for assaulting two women in a Las Vegas night club. Then, on December 21, 2011, again in Las Vegas, Judge Melissa Saragosa sentenced Mayweather to 90 days in the Clark County Detention Center after he pled guilty to a battery domestic violence charge involving Josie Harris (the mother of three of his children) and no contest to two charges of harassment. According to the indictment, the battery domestic violence involved grabbing Harris by the hair, throwing her to the floor, striking her with his fist, and twisting her arm in front of two of the children. The harassment included threatening to kill Harris and her then-boyfriend or make her and the boyfriend "disappear." Mayweather served 63 days of his ninety-day sentence after receiving 27 days off for good behavior.
One of the many troubling aspects of Mayweather's conduct is the manner in which the powers that be have responded to it.
The Nevada State Athletic Commission didn't suspend Mayweather's license after he pled guilty to battery domestic violence. Judge Saragosa delayed the start of Floyd's jail term so he could fight Miguel Cotto in Las Vegas on May 5, 2012. Golden Boy (Mayweather's promoter) continued to promote his fights. And World Boxing Council president Jose Sulaiman declared, "Beating a lady is highly critical [but] it is not a major sin or crime."
Then there are Mayweather's recent comments regarding former Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice.
Rice was arrested on February 15 (and later indicted for third-degree aggravated assault) after punching his fiancee (now his wife) and knocking her unconscious in an elevator at the Revel Hotel and Casino in Atlantic City. Rice agreed to enter a pre-trial intervention program (which, if satisfactorily completed, would lead to dismissal of the criminal charges against him). On July 24, he was suspended for two games by National Football League commissioner Roger Goodell, who seemed intent on brushing the incident aside. Thereafter, Goodell was widely criticized for the leniency of the punishment. On August 28, he admitted that his response to the occurrence had been inadequate and announced that, henceforth, acts of domestic violence or sexual assault by NFL players or any other league personnel would be met by a six-game suspension with a second offense calling for a minimum suspension of one year.
On September 8, TMZ posted a surveillance-camera video of Rice's punch. Videos do more than confirm that an incident occurred. They have the potential to imprint the gruesome nature of a violent act on the consciousness of the nation. The public was already aware that Rice had punched his fiancee in an elevator. The video made it "real" and ignited a firestorm of outrage. That same day, Rice's contract was terminated by the Ravens and Goodell announced that Rice had been suspended by the NFL for a minimum of one year.
Then Mayweather had his say. On September 9, Floyd met with reporters after his "grand arrival" at the MGM Grand and was asked about Rice.
"I'm not here to say anything negative about him," Mayweather answered. "Things happen. You live and you learn. No one is perfect." Floyd also voiced the opinion. "They had said that they suspended him for two games. Whether they seen the tape or not, I truly believe that a person should stick to their word. If you tell me you're going to do something, do what you say you're going to do."
"Have you seen the video?" a reporter asked.
"Oh, yeah. I seen the video."
"It's kind of disturbing," the reporter pressed.
"I think there's a lot worse things that go on in other people's households," Mayweather responded. "It's just not caught on video."
"I wish Ray Rice nothing but the best," Mayweather continued. "I know he's probably going through a lot right now because football is his passion. Football is his love. It's no different from me being in the fight game. If they told me, 'Floyd, you got the biggest deal in sports history' and a couple of months later they say, 'Your deal is taken away from you.' Oh, man. It's not really just the money; it's the love for the sport."
Then, further referencing his own history, Mayweather declared, "With my situation, no bumps, no bruises, no nothing. With O.J. and Nicole, you seen pictures. With Chris Brown and Rihanna, you seen pictures. With Ochocinco and Evelyn, you seen pictures. You guys have yet to see any pictures of a battered woman; a woman that claims she was kicked and beat [by me]."
Maybe not pictures. But Mayweather did plead guilty and was incarcerated after prosecutor Liza Luzaich referenced his long history of domestic violence and told Judge Saragosa, "The only thing that is going to get this man's attention is incarceration."
Somewhere in the United States tonight, a young man who thinks that Floyd Mayweather is a role model might beat up a woman. Maybe she'll walk away with nothing more than bruises and emotional scars. Maybe he'll kill her. It would be a shame if Warren Buffett contributed to that horror.
Because of Buffett's record on social issues, one has to assume that he didn't understand the implications of his conduct. He should have known better.
Thomas Hauser can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. His next book, The Final Recollections of Charles Dickens, will be published by Counterpoint in November.