US sports equipment giant Nike axed Manny Pacquiao after he described gay couples as “worse than animals”, slamming the Filipino boxer’s remarks as “abhorrent.”
A Nike statement said the company had severed its ties with Pacquiao, who triggered a firestorm of controversy with his comments to a Filipino broadcaster earlier this week.
“We find Manny Pacquiao’s comments abhorrent,” a Nike statement said.
“Nike strongly opposes discrimination of any kind and has a long history of supporting and standing up for the rights of the LGBT community. . .we no longer have a relationship with Manny Pacquiao.”
But for all the criticism over his anti-gay comment and the loss of a lucrative endorsement deal with Nike, 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.
The fighter has apologised for the comments, and analysts reckoned the controversy has caused limited damage to his campaign.
“I’m sorry for comparing homosexuals to animals. Please forgive me for those I’ve hurt,” Pacquiao said in a video post on Instagram, his arms crossed.
Pacquiao said he was not condemning homosexuals but was standing by his conservative Christian faith.
“I love you all with the love of the Lord. I am praying for you.”
Pacquiao told television station TV5 earlier this week: “It’s common sense. Do you see animals mating with the same sex? Animals are better because they can distinguish male from female.”
“If men mate with men and women mate with women, they are worse than animals.”
Many ordinary Filipinos believe Pacquiao made a mistake in his remarks on same-sex marriage because he hurt some sensibilities.
Many are more interested in what happens in April, when Pacquiao tries to win back the WBO welterweight title he lost last year to Floyd Mayweather.
Billed as his final fight, Pacquiao is going up against American Timothy Bradley.
“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.
“He may still win in the elections.”
“The criticism against Pacquiao has no effect on us,” said Annabelle Magsipoc, a government employee, told Reuters Television, adding that 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 percent support in a field of four dozen candidates vying for one of the 12 vacant seats in the upper house of Congress. – AFP.