SAN DIEGO, May 16, 2012 – At a time when he should be concentrating on training for his upcoming bout with Timothy Bradley June 9, Manny Pacquiao finds himself on the ropes defending himself from punches thrown at him over his comments about same-sex marriage.
These distractions are the biggest threat from the current furor over Pacquiao’s remarks, and the misinterpretation and misunderstanding that has followed.
In an interview by Filipino-American writer Granville Ampong published in the Conservative Examiner, Pacquiao is quoted saying “God’s words first … obey God’s law first before considering the laws of man,” and “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.”
Writer Ampong goes on to cite Bible verse Leviticus 20:13, which says, “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.”
Although these are clearly the writer’s thoughts, the verse was somehow misattributed to Pacquiao. Let the backlash begin.
A planned interview between Pacquiao and his friend and fan Mario Lopez on the television show “Extra” at the upscale outdoor mall The Grove was cancelled after Grove founder Rick Jacobs informed Pacquiao he was no longer welcome there: “Based on news reports of statements made by Mr. Pacquiao we have made it be known that he is not welcome at The Grove and will not be interviewed here now or in the future. The Grove is a gathering place for all Angelenos and not a place for intolerance.”
Jacobs’ Courage Campaign, an organization he founded to promote marriage equality and tolerance, immediately started a petition drive online to get Pacquiao’s biggest sponsor Nike to drop him. Jacobs told LA Weekly Pacquiao’s comments will have an impact on his endorsements and sponsors in the U.S.
“I do think that American sponsors are going to have to look very carefully about whether they can continue to pour money into his apparently empty soul,” Jacobs said.
As Pacquiao is arguably the most famous boxer in the world (sorry, Floyd) and was recently named the fourth most influential athlete in the U.S. by Forbes Magazine, this isn’t likely to happen anytime soon.
Pacquiao’s camp moved quickly to clarify his remarks. Pacquiao released a statement via his official website stating, “I didn’t say that, that’s a lie… I didn’t know that quote from Leviticus because I haven’t read the Book of Leviticus yet. I’m not against gay people. I have a relative who is also gay. We can’t help it if they were born that way. What I’m critical off [sic] are actions that violate the word of God. I only gave out my opinion that same sex marriage is against the law of God.”
Pacquiao told an interviewer from ABS-CBN News in the Philippines that reporter Ampong “did not even ask me for a verse from the Bible. But if he did I would have given him 1st Corinthians 6:9” which lists down activities including homosexuality that will prevent people from entering the Kingdom of God.”
Pacquiao went on to stress, “I am not angry with gays but I don’t want them to sin against the law of God because homosexual offenders cannot inherit the Kingdom of God. I was talking about same sex marriages.” Manny, this didn’t help you much.
Pacquiao told people making negative comments about him to “read the Bible and know the commandments of God first and not people. God is the judge. Stop sinning.”
Ampong backed up Pacquiao and issued the following clarification today: “Nowhere in my supposition and integration of my interview with Pacquiao did I mention that Pacquiao recited this Leviticus 20:13… I sincerely apologize for the confusion my column has caused. I certainly do not represent Pacquiao nor his team,” Ampong wrote.
However, many other media outlets attributed these comments to Pacquiao in error. It may be a bell that’s difficult to unring.
As a conservative legislator, these views are no surprise. Congressman Manny Pacquiao opposes the Reproductive Health Bill currently pending in the Philippine Congress which would make contraception and sex education available to all Filipinos; and is also against the legalization of divorce in his Catholic nation.
Pacquiao has strongly re-embraced his faith in recent months and moved closer toward the Church. He said he and his wife Jinkee now read the Bible daily.
Pacquiao has quietly sold off businesses having to do with vices like gambling including a Manila casino, and a large cockfighting operation (which is legal in the Philippines). He has stopped drinking alcohol and closed his restaurant and bar. Pacquiao has hinted that boxing and his newfound religious beliefs are in conflict.
Pacquiao barely won his last bout against Juan Manuel Marquez. Trainer Freddie Roach said immediately following the fight that Pacquiao was distracted and wasn’t himself. Rumors surfaced last week that Pacquiao’s wife had served him divorce papers on the eve of the Marquez bout, quickly denied by Roach.
But he didn’t disavow his comments that Pacquiao was distracted. Roach told Steve Angeles of ABS-CBN News, “I said I knew him (Manny) and his wife weren’t getting along before the fight, but I never said that. The thing is, we did have a bad week before the last fight and everything kind of fell apart and a lot of distractions, and he’s got rid of all those distractions and now everything is smooth,” he added.
If Pacquiao is ever going to see the big payday fight against Floyd Mayweather to cap off his career everyone is waiting for, he’s got to put in a good performance and beat Timothy Bradley soundly leaving no doubts like he did with the Marquez fight. He’s got to answer the questions surrounding him. Has he still got the passion, the will, and the skills to fight as he once did?
These doubts and distractions from politics, business and his personal life are what will do serious damage to Pacquiao’s career and image, not remarks about gay marriage, unfortunate as they are; not a petition campaign and not a cancelled entertainment news TV interview. Fans of the sport simply don’t care enough for it to matter.
Roach must get Pacquiao to hunker down and focus. A media blackout wouldn’t be the worst idea. Pacquiao should certainly not be conducting interviews without a member of his team present and not with a less than reputable writer at all. This is Public Relations 101.
Any more missteps leading to any more distractions may lead to a disaster in the Pacquiao camp, a loss to Timothy Bradley and the beginning of the end of an impressive athletic career. The weight of a nation and a lot of money rests on his shoulders. Let us hope he is up to it.
Bonus video: News report and commentary today about Pacquiao from ABS-CBN TV News, Philippines (in Tagalog)
Gayle Lynn Falkenthal, APR, is President/Owner of the Falcon Valley Group in San Diego, California. She is also a serious boxing fan covering the Sweet Science for Communities. Read more Ringside Seat in the Communities at The Washington Times. Follow Gayle on Facebook and on Twitter @PRProSanDiego.
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