WELLINGTON — The New Zealand government on Wednesday blocked former heavyweight boxing champion and convicted rapist Mike Tyson from entering the country.
Tyson had originally been granted a visa, despite opposition from Prime Minister John Key, to visit in November for a charity event.
But associate Immigration Minister Kate Wilkinson said the visa has now been cancelled after the show sponsor, the Life Education Trust, made clear it “no longer wants to have any involvement” with Tyson’s visit.
“Given that the Trust is no longer supporting the event, on balance, I have made the decision to cancel his visa to enter New Zealand for the Day of the Champions event,” the minister said.
Wilkinson said the original decision to grant Tyson a visa was “a finely balanced call” and the letter of support from the Trust was a significant factor in approving the application.
Tyson was sentenced to six years in prison in 1992 for raping an 18-year-old woman and under New Zealand law anyone sentenced to more than five years in jail is denied a visa, although this can be waived in certain circumstances.
Key had described the Tyson visa decision as “a line ball call”.
He said he did not understand the rationale behind allowing Tyson into the country and said he would never approve a visa being granted to someone with a serious conviction such as violence against a woman.
“I can see it from both sides, maybe it was a long time ago, but in my view they are very, very serious issues,” he said.
Life Education Trust chief executive John O’Connell told Fairfax Media his board had initially turned Tyson down and the letter of support was written by a well-meaning volunteer.
“We are a charity that works with children and their self-esteem and relationships with others. Clearly there is a brand values disconnect, we believed, between being involved with Mr Tyson,” O’Connell said.
“Certainly the rape conviction was the key thing.”
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This article first appeared in Salon.
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