Manny Pacquiao was just being true to himself – as an unapologetic homophobe
Filipino boxing star entitled to his opinions, but he also has to live with the consequences of voicing them
In the end, it’s your reputation that will be here long after you are. In that respect few Asian sports personalities of recent vintage have built a more enduring and positive global reputation than Filipino boxer Manny Pacquiao.
He built that reputation by being the ultimate underdog from the ultimate underdog country. He built it by carrying a dying sport with his tenacious talent and he built it by being charming, unassuming and accommodating. One week ago Manny was universally admired, he was the light to his adversary Floyd Mayweather’s darkness.
Yes, he was somewhat pious. A repentant sinner who had admittedly fallen prey to the intoxicating allure of fame. But he was a family man now and all business at that. Floyd had done jail time for domestic abuse and was so ostentatious that he nicknamed himself Money Mayweather and was happy to show one and all that he had more money than most Central American countries. Compared to him, Manny was being fit for a halo. He made it his mission to fight the type of debilitating poverty in his homeland that had ensnared him as a youth.
A mission that has brought him to the brink of being elected to the Senate in May and which could well see him run for president in a few years’ time. For those with even a smidgen of empathy, Manny was easy to like.
After causing a furore this week by stating in a rambling monologue that people in same-sex marriages are “worse than animals”, the fallout was predictable.
Nike dropped him immediately and even his own promoter Bob Arum agreed with the decision by the politically correct sports apparel giant. Naturally, gay rights activists globally were incensed and demanded an immediate apology.
So he did apologise, not for his convictions but for those who may have been offended because Manny does not like to offend people, even those he finds morally repugnant. But then after apologising he posted a biblical passage on his Instagram account from Levictus 20:13 that states; “If a man has sexual relations with a man as one does with a woman, both of them have done what is detestable. They are to be put to death, their blood will be on their own heads.”
I mean, that says it all right? There is little ambiguity in that passage, which was quickly deleted from Instagram by someone who is furiously attempting to salvage any sort of reputation for Manny. Years from now public relations and crisis management courses in trade school will use this as exhibit A in how to put out a fire with gasoline.
For his part Manny has admitted that he now feels liberated because he is finally true to himself and now the public knows he is without question, unapologetically homophobic.
He is most certainly entitled to his opinions and if it makes him feel any better there are a couple of men currently running for president of the United States who share his homophobia. But none of them have marketing contracts with Nike or with promoters looking to sell an upcoming fight featuring an over-the-hill 37-year-old homophobic pugilist. There are consequences, even for national icons.
His reputation in the US is officially shot now, irreparably so, and a cynic may say it was easy for Arum to throw him under the bus because he milked Manny for all he could during his prime. Pacquiao should have retired even before the Mayweather fight; his bouts are hardly must-see events now. Imagine the backlash if he had uttered his hate-filled invectives two weeks before his fight with Mayweather, the most financially lucrative fight in the history of boxing?
The timing of his proclamation may seem convenient now that he has become a sporting non-entity.
However this was not done, at least not originally, as some kind of proclamation on an evangelical crusade. He was asked by a Philippine TV crew during a routine interview for his opinions on gay marriage so in some respects it was probably as innocent as something this inflammatory could be. But context be damned when you are a star of Pacquiao’s magnitude.
He has to know that everything he says will be magnified far beyond a local audience. It’s why he feels he is qualified to run for a Senate seat despite appearing only four times in the last year in Congress, easily the worst attendance ledger on record.
Manny believes his reputation has earned him the right to fight and serve on his own accord and he is right about that. Reputations are, by and large, deserved. Good luck with that Manny.