Whether by design or a matter of circumstance, Jake Paul has become a symbol for opportunists hijacking a movement for their own personal gain.
The YouTube personality and pro boxing novice was prominently featured among a scene of protesters-turned-looters Saturday evening at Scottsdale Fashion Square in Scottsdale, Arizona. Video footage picked up through Instagram Live accounts show participants at the anti-racism rally which ultimately devolved into senseless property destruction and theft at the upscale shopping center in the Phoenix suburb.
Paul (1-0, 1KO) is not seen participating in the physical act of looting. However, the 95-second video available online shows him walking through the closed facility with others—among the group, his brother Logan, though who is only mentioned by name. Paul and others are seeing bearing witness to several individuals breaking into stores to steal jewelry, sneakers and other items.
The evening started out as an organized protest rally in response to the senseless murder of Minnesota native George Floyd, an African-American whose life was taken by four police officers Monday in Minneapolis. Protests and riots have erupted across the United States ever since, beginning in Minneapolis due to pent-up outrage over centuries worth of systemic racism, in addition to the initial failure to arrest any of the four disgraced cops.
The main perpetrator, Derek Chauvin has since been arrested under the charge of 3rd degree murder. By that point, however, major cities throughout the nation have devolved into senseless riots and looting, all of which are far removed from the Black Lives Matter movement and the intended purpose of any on-site protests. Saturday’s gathering in Scottsdale was arranged by design, as BoxingScene.com has been provided with evidence of organizers planning to bring the events away from their own cities.
“10pm. Caution: cover up! [W]ear mask, gloves, dark clothing. Bring water/milk,” read a circulated message distributed via an Instagram Live story from an account whose contents are private to non-subscribers. “They say we shouldn’t damage our own community, so we gone to [sic] take this protest, rage, anger, sadness and hurt to the white people community. They need to hear our cry they need to LISTEN.
“I need all my brothers and sisters to come out. I don’t care whether you’re rioting or peacefully protest. Time for action is NOW!!!! Be there!!!”
News of the protest was made public enough for the entirety of Scottsdale Fashion Square to close early well before the function began. Apparently, some form of the message made its way to Paul—who resides in Calabasas, California but was in Scottsdale to film footage of the anti-racist rally for his online vlog.
Paul was among a group complaining in the beginning of the posted video about the use of tear gas by police officers, who’ve claimed countrywide to use the tactic for crowd control but with far many videos providing evidence to the contrary.
The internet personality and rookie boxer addressed that part along with his actions in whole.
“To absolutely clear, neither I nor anyone in our group was engaged in any looting or vandalism,” Paul noted in a statement to his 3.7 million Twitter followers on Sunday. “For context, we spent the day doing our part to peacefully protest one of the most horrific injustices our country has ever seen, which led to us being tear-gassed for filming the events and brutality that were unfolding in Arizona.
“We were gassed and forced to keep moving on foot.”
The Scottsdale Fashion Square shopping mall intended to reopen its doors on Sunday at noon, but instead was forced to announce that it will remain closed due to the damage caused.
While Paul’s presence began as well-intended and truly in support of the Black Lives Matter movement, Paul’s alignment with parties clearly with agendas external to the true purpose has instead become the symbol of a different kind of epidemic—white privilege taking center stage over real problems that remain in need of repair. Several rallies throughout the country have become infiltrated by those arriving seeking to disrupt rather than arrive and ask how they can truly help further the cause.
Paul’s own sordid history doesn’t help avoid the label of being guilty by association. The 23-year old along with his older brother Logan—also a pro cruiserweight who is presently 0-1—have long found themselves mired in controversy all for the sake of furthering their own brand.
The latest instance has caught the eye of many, including one boxing-related rival.
“Jake Paul you’re a p-ssyhole,” Viddal Riley (4-0, 2KOs), a British cruiserweight and YouTube personality tweeted Sunday morning in response to the controversy. “No more needs to be said. F--king Prick.”
In addition to his pro career, Riley—who is aligned with Floyd Mayweather’s TMT (The Money Team)—trained fellow YouTube celebrity KSI for his pair of fights with Logan Paul—a draw during their exhibition match in London, before KSI claimed a split decision in their respective pro debuts last November in Los Angeles.
The rematch was gleefully carried by DAZN, providing the sports streaming service with its third most-watched boxing card of 2019. It also showed a negative side of Jake Paul, who took issue with his older brother losing the fight and claiming to have evidence of deep-rooted corruption within the sport.
His childish behavior was rewarded with a pro fight of his own, appearing in the chief support of a DAZN show during Super Bowl week. The younger Paul brought home the family’s first pro win, having his way with fellow YouTuber AnEsonGib (real name (Ali Loui Al-Fakhri) en route to a 1st round stoppage in Miami. Paul was immediately confronted by KSI during the post-fight interview, laying the foundation for a potential future fight between the two.
Until that day comes, Paul will continue building his online brand, as he currently boasts 13.7 million followers on Instagram, 3.7 million on Twitter and 20.1 million subscribers to his YouTube channel. For now, it appears he will also attempt to his part to raise awareness on those platforms, while also continuing to educate himself on current affairs through research and feedback.
“We filmed everything we saw in an effort to share our experience and bring more attention the anger felt in every neighborhood we traveled through; we were strictly documenting, not engaging,” noted Paul. “I do not condone violence, looting or breaking the law; however, I understand the anger and frustration that led to the destruction we witnessed and while it’s not the answer it’s important that people see it and collectively figure out how to move forward.
“We are all doing the best we can to be helpful and raise awareness; this is not the time to attack each other, it’s time to join together and evolve.”
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox