Almost immediately after Manny Pacquiao publicized his views on same-sex marriage, Nike terminated its endorsement deal with the acclaimed boxing champion. According to the major sportswear brand, what Pacquiao said regarding the issue is discriminatory and abhorrent.
The boxer made his controversial comments regarding gay couples on Monday during a television interview which was broadcasted in the Philippines. He said he is against the idea of this issue and even compared those who engage in same-sex relationships to animals.
"Have you seen any animal having male-to-male or female-to-female relations?" Pacquiao said during the interview according to ESPN. "If you have male-to-male or female-to-female [relationships], then people are worse than animals."
Immediately after the interview was aired, Pacquiao was slammed on social media by members and supporters of the LGBT community in the Philippines. The boxer then responded by posting a video to apologize. However, he maintained that he is still against same-sex marriage because of his religious beliefs.
Despite making a public apology, Nike still ended its partnership with the athlete, who has served as its endorser for eight years.
"We find Manny Pacquiao's comments abhorrent," the company said in a press release according to USA Today. "Nike strongly opposes discrimination of any kind and has a long history of supporting and standing up for the rights of the LGBT community."
Bob Arum, the promoter of Pacquiao and founder of Top Rank spoke about the issue and sided with Nike. He said that although same-sex marriages are still not allowed in the Philippines, the fighter's comments are still offensive for certain groups of people. He also noted that he understands Nike decision to cut Pacquiao due to the possible effect on the company's image and business if it chooses to retain him, the Associated Press via Yahoo News reported.
"His comments were made to a Filipino audience, where same sex marriage is not as accepted as it is [in the U.S.], and Manny is a convert of enlightened Christianity, which does not believe in same sex relationships," Arum said. "But to people in the United States, his words can only be viewed as hate speech."
"If I was running Nike, I would have to make the same decision they did," he added."
Pacquiao is not the only high-profile athlete whose contract with Nike was ended due to a controversy. Some of its former endorsers include Lance Armstrong, Adrian Peterson, Oscar Pistorius and Ray Rice.