Filipino boxing great Manny Pacquiao has refused to back down on his controversial comments about gay people even after the major sportswear brand Nike terminated his contract, arguing that it is more important for people "to hear the truth."
"Whatever decision Nike makes is its decision and I respect that," Pacquiao, 37, said, according to USA Today Sports. "Its sponsorship of me now only involves my clothes for my fight. Our contract had already ended aside from sponsoring the boxing."
"I am not condemning the LGBT (community)," he added."What I am condemning is the act. I'm happier because I'm telling the truth ... It's worse if we will hide the truth. I'm happier that a lot of people were alarmed by the truth."
Nike still ended its partnership with Pacquiao, an outspoken Christian and winner of world titles in eight different weight categories, after comments he made during an interview with Filipino station TV5.
"It's common sense. Will you see any animals where male is to male and female is to female?" he said of his opposition to same-sex marriage. "The animals are better. They know how to distinguish male from female. If we approve [of] male on male, female on female, then man is worse than animals."
After receiving backlash from many in the LGBT community, Pacquiao later said that he did not mean to offend anyone, but reiterated that he is still against same-sex marriage because of his religious beliefs.
"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," he wrote on Facebook.
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."
A report from the Christian Post notes that Pacquiao's promoter, Bob Arum, the chairman of Top Rank, argued that the athlete did not fully understand the offensive nature of his statements.
"Look, there is a portion in the Bible, both in the Old Testament and New Testament, against homosexuality. Modern thinking is that this is prohibition in an ancient time. Many people feel that way. Other people think differently," Arum said.
He added that Pacquiao is a "politician first and a fighter second," and that his views on gay marriage are directed more toward his home country, where the practice is not legal.
"So the statement that he made, as inarticulate as it was, was basically designed for home consumption. It was said in Tagalog (the Filipino language). He didn't realize - or maybe he did realize and didn't care - that the world is a small place and a statement made in the Philippines goes viral on the internet," Arum added.
While the Philippine Catholic church on Sunday defended Pacquiao for his views, Father Jerome Secillano agreed that the boxing great should respect homosexuals and not judge and condemn them.
"This is really in the Bible. There is this quote he (Pacquiao) uses from the Bible and we cannot change that," Secillano said during an appearance on DZMM, Raw Story reports.
He said it was "unfair" to condemn Pacquiao for echoing what he reads in the Bible when he was asked about same-sex marriage, but acknowledged that the athlete should not have used such offensive language.
"The church... says that if this is your lifestyle, if this is your orientation, then we respect that, we cannot condemn them," the priest said.
He also emphasized that the Catholic Church, which counts 80 percent of Filipinos as followers, still opposed legalization of same-sex marriage