Nike Drops Manny Pacquiao After Antigay Comments

A petition calling for a boycott of the company had amassed thousands of signatures.

Filipino boxer Manny Pacquiao, who is running for senator in the May 2016 vice-presidential election, speaks to supporters during the start of national elections campaigning in Mandaluyong, Metro Manila, on Feb. 9. (Photo: Janis Alano/Reuters)

Feb 17, 2016· 1 MIN READ
Jennifer Swann is TakePart’s culture and lifestyle reporter.

Nike ended its relationship with world champion boxer and Filipino Congress member Manny Pacquiao on Wednesday, calling his recent remarks comparing gays to animals "abhorrent."

"Nike strongly opposes discrimination of any kind and has a long history of supporting and standing up for the rights of the LGBT community," the company said in a statement. The decision follows the launch of an online petition that proposed boycotting Nike, a supporter of the federal LGBT nondiscrimination bill, until it cut ties with the fighter. The petition had amassed more than 2,000 signatures as of this week.

Pacquiao apologized for his comments during a TV interview on Monday, which came as the 37-year-old athlete and conservative politician campaigns for a seat in the Senate. "It's just common sense. Do you see any animals of the same sex mating? Animals are better off, they can distinguish between male and female," Pacquiao told Filipino news station TV5 when asked for his opinion on same-sex marriage. "Now if men are mating with men and women with women, then they are worse than animals."

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The statement is the most recent example of anti-LGBT sentiments from Pacquiao that have provoked ire among the international LGBT community, prompting the eight-division world boxing champion to issue an apology. In 2012, he was banned from the Los Angeles outdoor shopping mall The Grove, where he was scheduled to have a television interview, after a newspaper wrote that he'd criticized President Barack Obama's support of same-sex marriage. Pacquiao apologized, saying that he had been misquoted and that the information had been taken out of context.

While same-sex marriage is illegal throughout Asia, the Philippines has garnered a reputation for being one of the most gay-friendly countries in the region. Nearly three-quarters of Filipino residents over 18 surveyed in 2013 said that homosexuality should be accepted by society. But a survey released by Pew the following year showed a more conservative attitude prevailing when homosexuality was framed as a personal and moral issue: Just a quarter of respondents in the majority-Catholic country said they felt it was morally acceptable.

On his Facebook page on Monday, Pacquiao offered an apology and asked for forgiveness for those he had offended. "I still stand on my belief that I'm against same sex marriage because of what the Bible says, but I'm not condemning LGBT," he wrote.