Willie Jackson backs Tyson visit

MIKE TYSON: Served three years in jail for rape, but continues to deny the offending.
MIKE TYSON: Served three years in jail for rape, but continues to deny the offending.

Urban Maori Authority chairman Willie Jackson has thrown his weight behind a visit to New Zealand by former heavyweight boxing champion and convicted rapist Mike Tyson.

‘‘I want to put Mike Tyson in front of people who need support, who need a message, who need to be turned around. Why would people be opposed to that?’’ Mr Jackson said yesterday.

Tyson was initially granted a visa under a special direction, but that was reversed by Associate Immigration Minister Kate Wilkinson after charity Life Education Trust pulled a letter of support that had been written by a trust volunteer.

But Tyson’s promoter Max Markson said from Australia yesterday that he had several conversations with talkback host and former MP Mr Jackson, who had offered a letter supporting Tyson’s entry into New Zealand, and he was hopeful the visit could go ahead.

His backing was on condition Tyson visited a marae in South Auckland and spoke to young Maori there.

“I am not going to support them coming across unless Mike came to the community,” Jackson said.

“The people I want Mike to talk to cannot afford to come to the evening.”

If the event in New Zealand went ahead in mid-October as planned, funds raised would go to the Urban Maori Authority.

“The $60,000 would be nice but it’s not the priority. My priority is the community.”

Jackson said individuals who would benefit from the “Mike Tyson message” would be selected to meet with him.

Tyson planned to launch his own Tyson Cares charity foundation in the United States later this month to help the largest women’s refuge in Nevada and also a major charity for disadvantaged children.

‘‘It is part of what Mike loves to do,’’ Markson said.

He said another visa application had not yet been lodged for Tyson, but he expected that would be done early next week.

The woman whose complaint to the Life Education Trust resulted in Tyson’s visa being cancelled said he was no role model for kids.

Julianna Venning, a teacher, social worker and political lobbyist, became concerned about Tyson’s upcoming visit and began looking into his background.

She discovered he had also been jailed in 1999 for assaulting two motorists in Maryland and believed he was far from reformed.

She said yesterday she contacted Immigration New Zealand when she heard Tyson was coming to New Zealand.

She was told Tyson was automatically barred because he been sentenced to more than five years’ jail but had been given a special waiver because he was donating some of the profits from his Auckland show to the Life Education Trust.

Ms Venning then contacted the head office of the trust, which was unaware of a letter of support had been written by a well-meaning Auckland volunteer despite the trust’s board turning down Markson’s offer in August.

The trust then pulled its letter of support, promoting the Government to cancel his visa.

‘‘There is no way we need him as a role model for children,’’ Ms Venning said.

‘‘It would offend every single woman who has ever been sexually abused, raped, assaulted or even threatened verbally by her partner. It would send a really bad message to kids that it’s perfectly alright to do what you like to women and get away with it.”