Manny Pacquiao has provoked a storm of controversy in his home country after saying people in same-sex relationships “are worse than animals”. The 37-year-old, who is running for a seat in the Philippines senate in May’s elections as a conservative Christian, made the remark in a video posted on local TV5’s election site.
“It’s common sense,” the eight times world champion, who later apologised, said. “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.”
The country’s most popular gay comedian, Vice Ganda, posted #PrayForMannyPacquiao to his 6.7m followers on Twitter as he hit back at the boxer, adding: “Some people think they can judge people like God just because they’ve attended a prayer meeting and read the Bible. The senate needs experts on politics and law, not blind prophets.”
The singer Aiza Seguerra, who recently married her actress-girlfriend, called on voters to boycott Pacquiao, who is also preparing for his last fight in April, calling him an “ignorant, bigoted hypocrite”. Seguerra added: “You might have done our country proud but with your statement, you just showed the whole country why we shouldn’t vote for you.”
Pacquiao, beaten by Floyd Mayweather in May last year, represents the province of Sarangani in the House of Representatives, though is often absent. In one of his few speeches, Pacquiao quoted heavily from the bible as he attempted to stop a proposed law, since passed, giving free condoms to the poor.
Responding to the controversy via Instagram, Pacquiao initially posted an image of himself with his wife, quoting the Bible and writing: “I rather obey the Lord’s command than obeying the desire of the flesh. I’m not condemning anyone, but I’m just telling the truth of what the Bible says.”
Later, though, he added an apology, saying: “I’m sorry for hurting people by comparing homosexuals to animals. Please forgive me for those I’ve hurt. 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. I love you all with the love of the Lord. God bless you all and I’m praying for you.”
“We find Manny Pacquiao’s comments abhorrent,” Nike said Wednesday in a statement. “Nike strongly opposes discrimination of any kind and has a long history of supporting and standing up for the rights of the LGBT community.”
Pacquiao also served as a pitchman for Wonderful Pistachios and Nestle, although representatives for both companies said they don’t have him under contract currently.
“Wonderful Pistachios is not currently affiliated with Manny Pacquiao nor do his views align with ours,” Wonderful Pistachios spokesperson Jennifer George told USA TODAY Sports. “Wonderful Pistachios stands firmly for diversity and equality and we proudly support marriage equality and inclusion around the world.”