Staff editorial: Lewis vs. Tyson

Although bringing Mike Tyson to D.C. constitutes the city taking the low moral ground on a controversial issue, the D.C. Boxing and Wrestling Commission’s vote supporting the license application of Tyson and opponent Lennox Lewis is the right move for an ailing District economy hit extraordinarily hard by recession after Sept. 11.

The District’s tourism industry estimates the city lost $1.2 billion in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 terrorist attack. Should the fight come to fruition, related industries like hotels and restaurants could receive up to $200 million revenues from the fight. Not to mention future revenues that could follow from hosting other major bouts.

Religious and business leaders claiming that Washington’s wholesome family image could be tarnished by the likes of Tyson pay little tribute to the city’s history. Monica Lewinsky, the Watergate scandal, former President John F. Kennedy’s adulterous behavior, Iran-Contra and countless other scandals dirtied Washington’s name long before Mike Tyson arrived. Arguments claiming the city’s reputation would be besmirched any more than has already been done are unconvincing. After all, this is the same city that re-elected former D.C. Mayor Marion Barry after he was videotaped smoking crack-cocaine in an undercover police sting.

It is not commendable that D.C. Mayor Anthony Williams says he supports the fight simply for tourism revenue. But the reality is that, with people afraid to visit one of al Qaeda’s preferred targets, a Lewis-Tyson bout would remind tourists that the city remains a safe and fun place to play.

The general public is well aware of Tyson’s past crimes, including a three-year stint at an Indiana prison for rape. Regardless of any ongoing investigations, Tyson has served time for the crimes he has been charged with.

With the fight able to produce an economic windfall for the city, Tyson and Lewis should be able to fight at the MCI Center for what could be a watershed event in D.C. sports history. And D.C. residents can boycott if they disagree.

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