Manny Pacquiao, the boxer turned boxer-Congressman who has found himself in territory that rival Floyd Mayweather is more accustomed to, counterpunching the press which had cornered him, some could argue, on the rhetorical ropes, has made clear his stance on same-sex marriage, and what he thinks of gay people.
The clarifying remarks made by Pacquiao to the Associated Press on Wednesday came after several days of a burgeoning controversy which stemmed from an interview he gave to Conservative Examiner writer Granville Ampong. That piece ran on May 14, and it gave the impression, in the minds of many readers, that Pacquiao was so opposed to same-sex marriage, and President Obama's personal embrace of it, that he supported the antiquated Old Testament passage from Leviticus, which 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.”
The Ampong piece in fact does not state that Pacquiao quoted the passage, but because it was poorly written, that was the impression many media outlets and fight fans received. Pacquiao was accused of trafficking, by some, in "hate speech." So he went into counter-punching mode. "I'm not against the gay people," Pacquiao said to the AP. "I'm not condemning them. ... I have a cousin (who is) gay. I have relatives (who are) gay. I have a lot of friends (who are) gay, so I'm not condemning gays. What I said is I'm not in favor of same-sex marriage. That's the one thing I said to the guy. I told (the reporter) I'm against same-sex marriage," Pacquiao added. "He said, 'Why?' I said, 'It's the law of God.' That's all I said."
To be clear, Pacquiao said he does not embrace that Leviticus passage, which is used by fundamentalists who see the Bible as a blueprint for life to justify their bias against homosexuals. They usually maintain that homosexuality is a choice, and thus a behavior, not a trait present from birth. This allows them to escape, in their heads anyway, the rebuttal that it amounts to bigotry to lobby against the rights of a person because of the presence of a genetic trait. The same way all decent souls know that it isn't right to discriminate against someone on the basis of what color skin they are born with, many people who took issue with the inflammatory Pacquiao-Ampong story feel that it is irrefutably wrong and immoral to deny homosexuals all of the same rights and privileges afforded to heterosexual Americans. But if fundamentalists don't cling to the ludicrous (to me) assertion that sexual preference is a choice--after all, who among us remembers sitting down, at any stage, and deciding if you would rather smooch men or women--then they would have no moral cover to hide behind.
"My favorite verse in the Bible is 'Love one another,' and 'Love your neighbor as you love yourself,' " Pacquiao said to the AP. "It's in the Bible: Do not judge. I'm not judging."
Floyd Mayweather, no surprise, jumped into the fray, all the better to stay relevant and benefit from the heat of the firestorm.
"I stand behind President Obama & support gay marriage," Mayweather Tweeted Wednesday. "I'm an American citizen & I believe people should live their life the way they want." Some Floyd fans applauded the Tweet, while the anti-Floyd faction noted that he has used derisive language in regards to homosexuality, including sometimes using a slur used against gays, "f----t," and mocked Miguel Cotto for sleeping in the same bed with a male pal in the last HBO 24/7 series.
All this leaves me shaking my head; a few years ago, who would have thought that this brouhaha would be the dominant topic ahead of Pacquiao's next fight, which unfolds June 9 in Las Vegas. If you put a gun to the heads of the promoters and publicists trying to promote the scrap against Tim Bradley, my guess is that they would admit that they aren't wishing the brouhah didn't occur. Press is press, and now, many thousands of people who were not aware of Manny Pacquiao are. And we can presume, a sliver of them will now pay to watch his next bout, whether to root for or against him. Strange business, this boxing.
Feel free to follow Woods on Twitter here.
Who will win #HOPKINSKOVALEV