Mike Tyson’s visa has been canceled by New Zealand because of his earlier rape conviction, stemming from 20 years ago, after Prime Minister John Key spoke out against the visit by the former heavyweight champion.
Associate Immigration Minister Kate Wilkinson stated on Wednesday she was also influenced by a charity that would have benefited from his appearance wanting nothing to do with Tyson.
Tyson said he had been looking forward to meeting New Zealand’s indigenous Maori, the inspiration for his notorious facial tattoo.
Tyson’s 1992 rape conviction would normally prevent his entry in New Zealand and could be grounds for denial in Australia as well.
Tyson was to speak at a November event in Auckland, the “Day of the Champions,” which is being promoted by Sydney agency Markson Sparks. On Wednesday the agency continued to promote tickets for appearances in New Zealand and five major Australian cities.
Wilkinson stated that her approval was “a finely balanced call,” but then the Life Education Trust charity withdrew its support on Tuesday.
The charity’s chief executive, John O’Connell, however, stated it long ago decided not to accept any money from the event due to its concerns over Tyson’s character. O’Connell said a volunteer trustee mistakenly sent a letter to immigration authorities supporting Tyson’s plans.
Promoter Max Markson said he’s continuing to sell tickets - from 69 to 300 Australian dollars ($70 and $310) - and will give refunds if Tyson cannot appear. He said he had been “hoping it might be a smoother run,” but remained confident Australia would grant Tyson a visa and that New Zealand would reverse its decision when he found another suitable charity.
“He’ll only be in the country for 20 hours, I don’t think he’s a danger to anybody, and thousands of people want to see him,” Markson said.
Would-be visitors to Australia normally must pass a character test. Those who have a “substantial criminal record” - including people who, like Tyson, have been sentenced to more than a year in prison - fail the test.