You might wrongly think that the Manny Pacquiao – Tim Bradley fight is suddenly in jeopardy. That’s because nobody knows how fast Pacquiao can recover from surgery needed to remove his foot from his mouth.
The fight is April 9. The scars will be deep, and not all physical.
For those of you vacationing on Jupiter the last few days, this is what happened. Pacquiao made a public statement in his native Philippines in which he said that gays and lesbians were “worse than animals” because animals had sex with the opposite gender.
That statement was immediately, and understandably, taken as a grotesquely misguided and misinformed view of humanity.
This was not the Pacquiao everybody knew. This was not the all-inclusive, time-for-everybody Pacquiao who has grown into an international icon in just his 37 years on this planet. In the blink of an eye, he went from beloved to buffoon.
It made no sense. Pacquiao isn’t stupid. What he said, and that he said it, was.
Somebody so huge in the public eye and, for so long, representing and demonstrating care and compassion for all of mankind would simply not utter what he did. There is no logic here.
Pacquiao has come from deep poverty and never stopped remembering that. He is a multi-millionaire now, and it seems fair to speculate that thousands of gay and lesbian fight fans have contributed to that by purchasing tickets and pay-per-view showings over the years. He wouldn’t fail to take that under consideration before speaking — not so much their money as their feelings. That is just how he is.
Or so we thought.
Pacquiao is not just a championship boxer. He is a kind of Philippine Robin Hood, running in the circles of the rich and then giving to the poor. The lines that snake around the block outside his home in General Santos City are legendary. Nobody goes home empty handed.
That alone makes it so shockingly inconsistent to have compassion and narrow-mindedness come from the same person.
This is the era of political correctness. Like it or not, Pacquiao has to know that. He is widely traveled, exposed internationally to the ways of the world. He knows those ways do not allow for making stupid statements in public settings, especially if you are as big a public figure as he is.
He may have even heard stories over the years of similar public verbal suicide.
The Dodgers’ Al Campanis said, on network TV, that blacks “lacked the necessities” to advance into managerial positions in major league baseball. He was fired from his general manager job the next day.
Broadcaster Jimmy (The Greek) Snyder said that “blacks were bred to be better athletes than whites.” The TV network quickly fired him.
Twins owner Calvin Griffith told a Rotary Club meeting that he had moved his team from Washington, D.C., because there were “only 15,000 blacks in Minneapolis” and that he wanted to have his team playing for “hard-working white people.” That was in 1978. Six years later, after never really regaining any sort of public trust, he sold the team out of the Griffith family for the first time and wept the day the deal went through.
The Clippers’ Donald Sterling was nowhere near as public with what brought his fall from grace, but once a recording surfaced of him saying he didn’t want lots of blacks at his basketball games, he joined the collection of disgraced and disavowed public figures, whose tongues and common sense malfunctioned.
All would have been eventually confronted with the same obvious question that Tonight Show host Jay Leno once posed to actor Hugh Grant, shortly after Grant had been arrested with a hooker. Leno asked Grant: “What were you thinking?”
We ask the same. Manny Pacquiao, what were you thinking?
Elvis has impersonators. Maybe you had one, too. Impersonators are usually funny. This one wasn’t.
One explanation is that Pacquiao saw some misguided political strategy.
He is running for a Senate seat a month after his fight with Bradley. He has never denied that, since a Senate seat is the path to the presidency, he likely will try that road after the Senate.
Good luck with that now.
Perhaps he felt he needed some buzz, something other than skill in a boxing ring, to add to his voting support. His candidacy is from the Conservative Christian party, whose voting base may be slightly less turned off by what Pacquiao said than that of the Philippine general public, thereby minimizing damage there.
So he took note of the dysfunctional U.S. Presidential race, was fascinated by how one of the candidates has garnered attention and support by saying and doing outrageous things, and decided that’s the way to go.
So, let’s blame this all on Donald Trump.
Feel better now?
Probably not, because, deep down, we know that even Donald Trump wouldn’t say anything this stupid and hurtful.
At this writing, there still will be a fight April 9. There will be pickets and controversy and lots of media questions having nothing to do with boxing. One of the most popular athletes in history will likely enter the ring to boos. There isn’t enough time to heal this wound, nor a clear plan as to how.
Sports will take a backstage to sociology. Just as common sense and decency did to mindless words.
Leno’s question remains the only pertinent one. What were you thinking, Manny?
If Pacquiao is honest, he should answer the same way Hugh Grant did.
That may be his only hope. The best defense for stupidity is to admit it.
Editor’s Note: Manny Pacquiao has since been dropped by long-term sponsors Nike over his comments