Manny Pacquiao’s days as a Nike athlete are over. After a video surfaced showing the eight-time world boxing champion calling gay people “worse than animals,” Nike confirmed today (Feb. 17) that it had ended Pacquiao’s sponsorship deal.
The US sportswear company’s statement:
“We find Manny Pacquiao’s comments abhorrent. 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.”
Pacquiao, who is campaigning for a senate seat in his home country of the Philippines, made the remarks in an interview broadcast by Filipino station TV5. “It’s just common sense,” he said. “Do you see any animals of the same sex mating? Animals are better off, they can distinguish between male and female. Now if men are mating with men and women with women, then they are worse than animals.”
He later apologized in a video posted to his Twitter account, but reiterated that he does not support same-sex marriage. “My only mistake is comparing gay people to animals,” he said.
It wasn’t enough to stop widespread condemnation of Pacquiao, who has long opposed same-sex marriage, and has previously had to apologize for anti-gay remarks. A petition on Change.org even called for a boycott of Nike until it dropped Pacquiao, who has a long-standing relationship with Nike. He had recently signed a new deal with the company, reportedly worth a few million dollars.
Nike, meanwhile, has been vocal in its support of LGBT rights. In June, it launched the #BeTrue Collection, “inspired by the LGBT community,” and it has a corporate team dedicated to promoting diversity and inclusion within the company.
Maintaining a relationship with Pacquiao would have been risky for Nike’s image. His fighting career is on the wane, and he’s spending more time involved in Filipino politics. With each passing week, Nike’s sponsorship was less of a boxer and more of a Filipino congressman.