Nike has dropped Manny Pacquiao after the boxer, who is running for a seat in the Philippines senate and has been very public about his opposition to same-sex marriage in the past, said that gay people are “worse than animals.”
“Have you seen any animal having male-to-male or female-to-female relations?” Pacquiao said on a Filipino television station this week. “If you have male-to-male or female-to-female [relationships], then people are worse than animals.”
His remarks quickly gained traction and criticism online, and Nike announced on Wednesday that they had cut ties with the boxer, who fought (and lost to) Floyd Mayweather last year in the “richest fight” in boxing history.
“We find Manny Pacquiao’s comments abhorrent,” Nike said in a statement on Wednesday. “Nike strongly opposes discrimination of any kind and has a long history of supporting and standing up for the rights of the LGBT community.”
When the backlash for his comments first began, Pacquiao took to Instagram to defend his position. “I rather obey the Lord’s command than obeying the desires of the flesh. I’m not condemning anyone, but I’m just telling the truth of what the Bible says. The truth from the Bible is what changed me from my old ways,” he wrote.
Wearing a Nike shirt, he later took to social media to apologize for “hurting people,” while still doubling down on his opposition to gay marriage.
I'm sorry for hurting people by comparing homosexuals to animals. Please forgive me for those I've hurt. God Bless! pic.twitter.com/bqjRcWqp8R
— Manny Pacquiao (@mannypacquiao) February 16, 2016
“I’m sorry for hurting people by comparing homosexuals to animals,” Pacquiao wrote on Instagram. “Please forgive me for those I’ve hurt. 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. God Bless you all and I’m praying for you.”
This is far from the first time that Pacquiao, who is an often-absent member of the House of Representatives in the Philippines, has expressed anti-LGBT opinions — he has long been an opponent of gay marriage. In fact, he even had to make a similar apology to gay people back in 2012.
Nike has been vocal about their support of LGBT athletes recently, endorsing both Brittney Griner and Jason Collins and even launching a #BeTrue campaign and clothing line to celebrate gay pride. Just this week their competitor Adidas announced that it would not end endorsement deals if an athlete it sponsors comes out.
Mayweather — a convicted domestic abuser — responded to Pacquiao’s most recent comments by saying, “I feel that we should let people live their lives the way they want to live their lives. I have nothing against anyone. To each his own.”