Boxer Manny Pacquiao's reputation as a good guy in his sport may be down for the count following a homophobic tirade posted on an election website in his native Philippines.
Pacquiao, who also serves in the country's House of Representatives and is currently campaigning for a Senate seat, said on the local TV5: “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."
The legendary fighter has a reputation for religious conservatism, but even among the faithful his remarks have been condemned as beyond the pale. Eventually Pacquiao offered up an apology via social media, which read: "I'm sorry for hurting people by comparing homosexuals to animals. Please forgive me for those I've hurt. God Bless!" Although on Instagram his tone was far less conciliatory. “I rather obey the Lord’s command than obeying the desire of the flesh. I’m not condemning anyone, but I’m just telling the truth of what the bible says,” he wrote.
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The 37-year-old has hinted that he intends to retire from boxing this spring to pursue a career in politics full-time. Now his anti-gay stance has provoked calls for a boycott and inspired a satirical hashtag #PrayForMannyPacquiao. According to The Guardian, the leading openly gay comedian in the Philippines, Vice Ganda, started the hashtag.
“Some people think they can judge people like God just because they’ve attended a prayer meeting and read the bible. The Senate needs experts on politics and law, not blind prophets,” tweeted Ganda on Monday.
Pacquaio's record as a legislator has been ridiculed in the past. He's been notoriously absent for key votes and made headlines for opposing an ultimately successful measure to increase access to contraceptives for the poor.
And his boxing career appeared to reach its nadir last spring, when he finally faced off against his biggest rival, undefeated middleweight champion Floyd Mayweather. He was defeated handily in a highly rated bout that was deemed a disappointment by most boxing fans. In fact, some fans sued Pacquaio for $5 million for failing to disclose an injury that may have affected his performance.
Meanwhile, despite the controversy, Pacquaio is expected to win in his Senate race in May.