Boxing star Manny Pacquiao says he respects Nike’s decision to sever ties with him over his comments about gay relationships, but remained firm on his opposition to same-sex marriage and added he’s happy that “a lot of people were alarmed by the truth.”
The sportswear giant confirmed it will no longer have any business dealings with the Filipino boxing champion, adding it found his comments “abhorrent.”
Nike says it strongly opposes any kind of discrimination.
“Whatever decision Nike makes is its decision and I respect that and its sponsorship of me now only involves my clothes for my fight,” Pacquiao told reporters during a break in his training for an April 9 bout with Timothy Bradley in Las Vegas.
“Our contract has already ended aside from sponsoring the boxing,” he said.
The Bible-quoting Pacquiao, 37, has become an active Christian in recent years and has publicly declared his opposition to same-sex unions.
When he was asked by a local TV network as a Senate candidate about his views on same-sex marriages, Pacquiao came under fire for his curt reply.
“It’s just common sense,” Pacquiao said. “Have you seen any animal having male-to-male or female-to-female relations?”
Animals, he said, were better because they recognise gender differences, and “if you have male-to-male or female-to-female (relationships), then people are worse than animals.”
Among those who reacted strongly were popular gay celebrities in the country, some of whom declared they have lost their adulation for him.
Pacquiao, whose rag-to-riches life story and legend as an eight-division boxing champion have brought honour to his poor Southeast Asian nation and wealth to him, has apologised for hurting people’s feelings. He added he did not intend to condemn gays.
“I am not condemning the LGBT,” Pacquiao said. “What I am condemning is the act.”
“I’m happier because I’m telling the truth … It’s worse if we will hide the truth,” he said. I’m happier that a lot of people were alarmed by the truth.”
For all the criticism over his anti-gay comment, Pacquiao still looks set to win election to the country’s senate in May, according to political analysts.
Voters in the mostly Catholic Philippines appear unready to abandon support for the country’s biggest sporting hero, who is running for one of 12 vacant senatorial seats up for grabs in the May 9 election.
“Pacquiao has clearly offended the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community with his comments on same sex marriage, but this group represents a minority and this will not affect the boxer’s popularity among the voters,” Benito Lim, political science professor at the Jesuit-run Ateneo de Manila University, said. adding that “he may still win in the elections.”
“The criticism against Pacquiao has no effect on us,” said Annabelle Magsipoc, a government employee, adding the boxer retains popular support in the community.
“Actually, many people really wanted to say what Pacquiao said about same-sex marriage, but some people are trying to make this an election issue,” she said.
Independent opinion polls showed Pacquiao, a two-term congressman, consistently ranked eighth with 35% support in a field of four dozen candidates vying for one of the 12 vacant seats in the upper house of Congress.
Same-sex marriage is not allowed in the Philippines where more than 80% of the 100 million population is Roman Catholic.
Pacquiao has converted from being a Roman Catholic to a more conservative evangelical Protestant, voting against bills in the lower house of Congress on divorce, same-sex marriage and birth control through use of artificial contraceptives.
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