THE backlash has started.
Nike on Wednesday, Feb. 17, announced that it has dropped Manny Pacquiao as an endorser after the boxer remarked that people who engage in same-sex relationships are worse than animals.
“We find Manny Pacquiao’s comments abhorrent,” Nike said in a statement, according to ESPN. “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’s controversial interview with TV5 became viral online on Monday, Feb. 15 and was immediately picked up by local and international press.
On Tuesday, Feb. 16, Pacquiao took to social media and posted an apology on his Instagram account.
When Filipino-American Aries de la Cruz saw the apology, he went online and started a petition asking Nike to drop Pacquiao as an endorser.
“I believe apologies mean nothing without actions and consequences, and a plan for addressing how the contrite person will make things right with those he hurt,” de la Cruz told the Asian Journal. “Everyone has the right to have religious, social and cultural beliefs, but if you are a political leader and decision maker that is different because you have a duty to represent all your constituents, not just the views of a select few.”
In a little over 24 hours, the petition has generated more than four thousand signatures. Online and mainstream news outlets have also picked up the news. TMZ reported that Nike is “preparing to cut ties with boxing superstar Manny Pacquiao after his last round of anti-gay comments.”
New York City-based LGBT activist and graphic designer Scott Wooledge has also launched an online campaign asking the brands who have Pacquiao as an endorser to drop him.
He posted a tweet on Tuesday saying that Pacquiao speaks for these brands — Nike, Footlocker, Wonderful Pistachios and Nestle — and earned $12 million in 2015 as the face of these companies.
“Wonderful Pistachios is not currently affiliated with Manny Pacquiao nor do his views align with ours,” Wonderful Company spokesman Steven Clark told The Daily Beast. “Wonderful Pistachios stands firmly for diversity and equality, and we proudly support marriage equality and inclusion around the world.”
Pacquiao appeared in Wonderful Pistachios’ “Get Crackin’” commercials in 2012.
“I’m not surprised at all that the message of the petition that companies like Nike should not provide a platform for Cong. Manny Pacquiao’s anti-gay positions has resonated with so many Filipinos all over the world, gay and straight,” de la Cruz added.
Born in Manila and raised in Bacolod City, the 30-year-old de la Cruz is a graduate student of anthropology at Rutgers University in New Jersey. Like many Filipinos, de la Cruz was proud of Pacquiao’s achievements on the ring.
“In the past, his prowess in the ring and his many victories has made me proud to be a Filipino, but being a hero means nothing if one does not use that platform to unite the people he is supposed to represent,” he shared. “As a Filipino with a large global platform, Pacquiao has a tremendous opportunity to heal with his words and not harm or hurt.”
But much more than that, de la Cruz says Pacquiao’s words “are not merely opinions but have material and legal consequences for the LGBT Filipinos who must face oppression each time they leave their homes.”
“His opinions are much more than opinions when he has chosen to sponsor legislation in the past that has restricted the rights of our gay and lesbian Filipino friends and neighbors,” dela Cruz continued. “That is why an apology is not enough.”
Businessman and former Los Angeles Lakers player Magic Johnson added that, “Fans of all walks of life including gay fans supported May/Pac fight putting $100M in his pocket. I guess to him their money is still green. I won’t be watching another one of Manny Pacquiao’s fights.”
Top Rank Chief Executive Bob Arum believes that Nike made the right decision to drop Pacquiao as its endorser. In an interview with TMZ Sports, Arum said that he agrees with the company, as the boxer’s remarks were offensive to many people, particularly those in the gay and lesbian community.
“Manny shouldn’t have said what he did, and Nike acted appropriately,” he added.
Arum has been promoting Pacquiao for many of his fights, and has helped him become a global superstar. Although he explained that the Filipino boxer was simply being true to the tenets of his faith as a born-again Christian, he, however, does not share his opinion.
He is also unsure if the ongoing controversy will affect the pay-per-view numbers of Pacquiao’s fight against Timothy Bradley, Jr. on April 9 — supposedly the boxer’s last fight of his career.
In Pacquiao’s defense
Despite committing an apparent political suicide, the United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) said that it will not drop Pacquiao from its Senate slate.
“Kayo naman. Humingi na nga ng tawad e. (Come on. He already asked for forgiveness),” Vice Pres. and UNA presidential candidate Jejomar Binay said on Friday, Feb. 19.
For his part, Senate Minority Leader Juan Ponce Enrile believes that Pacquiao may still salvage his Senate bid and win come elections in May.
Enrile, who echoes Pacquiao’s views on same-sex marriage, suggested that those who disagree with the Sarangani congressman should go to Mars.
“I can never support it, that’s unnatural. For me, I will not make [a statement] that strong but it’s unnatural,” Enrile told GMA News.
For Filipino boxing champion Nonito Donaire Jr., he believes that Pacquiao was just voicing out his beliefs, but unfortunately, did it in an improper manner.
“All in all I’m sure what was posted is just Pacquiao’s way of saying what his belief was coming from was deep rooted in the Bible and it’s just communicated improperly,” Donaire said in a Facebook post on Friday.
While Pacquiao continues to be the subject of a global flak, the Commission on Elections (Comelec) said that it is looking into the call of a senatorial candidate to disqualify Pacquiao over his upcoming fight against Timothy Bradley on April 9.
“This globally and nationally televised fight a month before the elections would mean hours and hours of coverage before, during, and after the fight. This media attention, supplemented by national pay-per-view television coverage during the fight, would be massive free advertising,” Former Congressman and fellow senatorial candidate Walden Bello said.
Bello suggested that Pacquiao postpone the fight or risk violating Comelec Resolution 9615 on political advertisement.
“[The fight] would give him a tremendous advantage against most of the other candidates in the race for the Senate,” he added.
On the other hand, election lawyer Romulo Macalintal refuted recent allegations on the Pacquiao-Bradley fight as grounds for Pacquiao’s disqualification.
“If there is any violation of election laws, a criminal complaint has to be filed and it is only after conviction of said offense that a candidate could be disqualified to seek public office either by election or appointment,” said in a statement.
“Our courts, under the doctrine of territoriality, have no jurisdiction over offenses committed by a person outside the territory of the Philippines, except if it involves national security of the country. For sure, the Pacquiao-Bradley fight is not covered by such exception,” Macalintal added. Because the fight will be held in Las Vegas, he said that no election offense case could be filed against Pacquiao.
Pacquiao, who intends to retire after his April fight against Bradley to focus on politics, said that the hullabaloo over his controversial statements has not impacted his training or affected his morale.
“What I did wrong was just comparing the people to animals, but you know what I am telling is the truth. I mean I am just telling what the Bible says. We believe God and then we should honour the word of God,” he told the Associated Press on Friday. n