One of the most endearing traits that lure the public to a politician is the idea that the person seeking elected office remembers where they came from.
Manny Pacquiao, chasing a Senate seat in the Philippines, lost sight of that this week.
Pacquiao, in a television interview in his home country, denounced gay relationships by saying if gays don’t understand how to distinguish male from female, “then [they are] worse than animals.”
The former eight-division world-champion boxer was quickly and deservedly derided for the insensitive remarks, and he issued an apology on Twitter:
“I’m sorry for hurting people by comparing homosexuals to animals. Please forgive me for those I’ve hurt. God bless!”
He’s opposed to same-sex marriage – a stance that unfortunately needs to be revealed in his political race -- but also posted on his Facebook page that he is “not condemning lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people,” adding, “I’m praying for you.”
Nevertheless, Pacquiao’s well-paying sponsor Nike has dropped him, and Jason Collins, the NBA’s first openly gay player, tweeted, “Bigoted people like you (and, yes, you are one) should never hold an office in politics.”
Having covered Pacquiao’s fights since 2006, I’ve known him to be one of the kindest, most generous athletes I’ve ever crossed paths with. And that’s not just with a Los Angeles Times reporter who helps Pacquiao build his audience.
I’ve witnessed everyday people who ask for his time after a workout at Wild Card Boxing Club in Hollywood accommodated with a personal exchange. In the hours after his May loss to Floyd Mayweather Jr., Pacquiao allowed his hotel suite to be packed with visitors – friends, countrymen and others.
He’s a people person.
Pacquiao is beloved in his country and by many in the U.S. because he made himself from nothing.
He gave his mother his first boxing “purse” so she could buy rice. He sold items on the street to scrap by. Even when he started receiving world-championship money, he’d hand out cash to lines of people who swarmed his home in the Philippines.
It didn’t matter then if someone he encountered was gay, just like it shouldn’t matter for a politician who has presidential ambitions and is supposed to represent every person in his district.
Pacquiao has taken pride in working to build a hospital and help bring education to his congressional district in the country.
Fair or not, his toxic words left the impression he’d rather those services not apply to people he holds such little regard for, a possibly destructive stance taken by such an otherwise kind man.
Remember where you came from, Manny, to a place that embraced your happy, spirited and entertaining ways even after you admittedly slipped in your personal life and were led to be re-born by some dubious religious leaders who apparently had you focus on the more divisive readings.
Read this: Healing this will take more than an apology.
Pacquiao, 37, has said his April 9 welterweight title fight against champion Timothy Bradley in Las Vegas will be his final bout before embarking on a demanding political career, with the Senate election in May.
Too bad he couldn’t reach the finish line in sports without becoming just another politician who inspired our most positive thoughts before doing something that revealed him as something far less than most of us.
MORE FROM SPORTS