LOS ANGELES, February 17 – Los Angeles US sports equipment giant Nike on Wednesday 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.”
Devout Christian Pacquiao, 37, had issued an apology soon after the controversy erupted.
“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, who is running for a seat in his country’s Senate, 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.”
Pacquiao’s comments were greeted with revulsion in the United States, where same-sex marriage is enshrined in law following a historic Supreme Court ruling.
Jason Collins, the first openly gay athlete in the NBA, dismissed Pacquiao as “bigoted.”
“I lost all respect for you,” Collins wrote on Twitter. “Bigoted people like you (& yes you are one) should never hold an office in politics.”
Pacquiao’s long-time rival Floyd Mayweather — who outclassed the Filipino in their money-spinning mega-fight last year — also took aim at the remarks.
“We should let people live their lives the way they want to live their lives. To each his own,” Mayweather was quoted by TMZ Sports as saying.
Gay marriage is outlawed in the Philippines due to strong opposition from the Catholic Church and 80 percent of the country’s 100 million people subscribe to the faith.
Gay marriages are officiated at small churches but are not recognised by the mainstream church or the state.
Pacquiao’s remarks angered some of his compatriots, with the country’s most popular gay comedian, Vice Ganda, urging his 6.7 million Twitter followers to “#PrayForMannyPacquiao”.
“Some people think they can judge people, like God, just because they’ve attended a prayer meeting and read the Bible,” he said.
Singer Aiza Seguerra, who recently married her actress-girlfriend, called on Filipino voters to boycott Pacquiao, who is also preparing for his last boxing fight in April, calling him an “ignorant, bigoted hypocrite”.
“You might have done our country proud but with your statement, you just showed the whole country why we shouldn’t vote for you,” Seguerra said in a post on Instagram.