WBO welterweight champion Manny Pacquiao denies he made the antigay remarks that have led to his being barred from entering a Los Angeles shopping center, the cancellation of an interview with Extra, and the launch of a campaign to end his endorsement deal with Nike.
During an interview with National Conservative Examiner writer Granville Ampong that was posted Saturday the boxer, who is also a Philippine legislator, discussed President Obama's support of marriage equality. Pacquiao was quoted as saying, "God's words first ... obey God's law first before considering the laws of man. God only expects man and woman to be together and to be legally married, only if they so are in love with each other. It should not be of the same sex so as to adulterate the altar of matrimony, like in the days of Sodom and Gomorrah of Old."
Pacquia now tells ABS-CBN's Dyan Castillejo that he was just offering his opinion. "I'm not against gay people," he says. "I have a relative who is also gay. We can't help it if they were born that way. What I'm critical of are actions that violate the word of God."
Numerous blogs and news outlets picked up Ampong's original story, erroneously attributing a Bible verse from Leviticus 20:13 to the boxer. But it is Ampong, not Pacquiao, who quotes the incendiary verse that reads: "If a man lies with a man as one lies with a woman, both of them have done what is detestable. They must be put to death; their blood will be on their own heads." Ampong now clarifies that it was he and who cited the incendiary Bible verse.
On Monday, Rick Caruso, owner of the Grove, tweeted, "Boxer Manny Pacquiao is not welcome at @TheGroveLA. @TheGroveLA is a gathering place for all Angelenos, not a place for intolerance." Extra, the entertainment news program that is taped at the Grove, was forced to cancel a planned interview with Pacquiao. The Los Angeles Times reports that the interview will now take place at a different location.
Rick Jacobs, founder of the nonprofit activist organization Courage Campaign, called for Nike to drop Pacquiao's lucrative endorsement deal and launched a petition that garnered 15, 000 signatures within five hours. "I think that American sponsors are going to have to look very carefully at whether they can continue to pour money into his apparently empty soul," Jacobs says in a statement. "He makes a lot of money thanks to the United States and sponsors here." Jacobs later responded to Pacquia's denial that he is antigay, saying, "I am glad that our swift action forced him to clarify his statement. But it isn't enough."
Pacquiao is listed by Forbes magazine as fourth on its list of most influential athletes in the United States this year. He is also the world's highest-paid athlete, having earned more than $50 million a year in sponsorship endorsements.