Filipino boxer Manny Pacquiao has already lost his endorsement contract with Nike over derogatory comments he directed towards the gay community, but Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D., Nev.), who has built a relationship with the boxer over the years, remains mum on the issue.
Pacquiao has apologized for his statement that gay people are “worse than animals” but has been unable to stop the negative press that his comments have caused him. His own promoter Bob Arum said that “his words can only be viewed as hate speech” and that Nike did the right thing by cutting ties with his boxer.
“Have you seen any animal having male-to-male or female-to-female relations?” Pacquiao said, according to a translation by ESPN. “If you have male-to-male or female-to-female [relationships], then people are worse than animals.”
The comment puts Reid, who has praised Pacquiao as “a great person,” at odds with the LGBT community that his party continues to rely on politically.
Reid’s praise came during Pacquiao’s 2011 visit to Washington, D.C., where he was hosted by Reid and given a tour of the U.S. Capitol.
During the press conference, Reid presented the boxer with a U.S. flag that had, at the request of Reid, been flown over the U.S. Capitol in honor of Pacquiao’s accomplishments.
Reid gave another speech on the Senate floor in which he said that “every time I visit with [Pacquiao] I come away more impressed than the last time.”
“He sets a welcome example of an athlete that does good for many … because he knows that his people need his advice,” said Reid. “He is a friend of Nevada, a friend of America, and I am happy to say, a friend of mine.”
Reid continued to be a supporter of Pacquiao in the years after his visit to Congress. In 2012 after Pacquiao lost a boxing match he said that Pacquiao got robbed and praised the way that he handled the loss.
“One of my very good friends was one of the judges in this fight and from all the reports that I’ve seen by people on the outside, who saw the fight, who attempted to be fair and judged the fight, Pacquiao won the fight,” said Reid. “The person who’s handled this better than anybody else is Pacquiao. He has said, ‘It’s a fight and I lost. I will fight again.’”
In 2010, Reid had Pacquiao deliver a speech during a campaign get out the vote event a week before his reelection.
“Manny Pacquiao and Harry Reid came from different sides of the globe, but we came from the same side of the street,” Reid said during the event. “It’s not enough to fight for yourself … It’s not enough to want to be a champion. We want to be champions for others.”
Reid’s office did not respond to inquiries into whether it plans to rescind the gift or the senator’s praise.
Though Pacquiao apologized for his comments, he held strong on his religious belief that same sex marriage is wrong.
“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,” said Pacquiao in an Instagram post. “I love you all with the love of the Lord.”