After Nike, pressure grows on Foot Locker and other sponsors to drop Manny Pacquiao

Published in Gay Star News.

Sportswear brand Nike acted swiftly yesterday to distance itself from the controversy surrounding Manny Pacquiao.

The Filipino boxer said earlier in the week that gay people were ‘worse than animals’. He subsequently apologized for any hurt his comments might have caused.

Nike, which has sponsored him for just over eight years, issued a statement yesterday saying that it found his Pacquiao’s views ‘abhorrent’ and clarifying that it had terminated its commercial relationship with the athlete turned politician.

LGBTI campaigners are now demanding that other brands associated with the boxer also distance themselves from him, namely Foot Locker – who aired a new commercial with Pacquiao last year – and Nestlé.

In a statement, One Million Kids for Equality said that it ‘appreciates Nike’s decision to cut ties with Manny Pacquiao and strongly encourages Foot Locker and others to do the same.’

The organization’s President, Brad Delaney said: ‘Manny is seen as a role model for youth around the world and we find his words deeply disturbing. Words like the ones mentioned above are extremely harmful to LGBTQ and allied youth who may have previously looked up to him.’

Ad Week reported that Wonderful Pistachios, who shot a campaign with Pacquiao in 2012, which it re-aired in 2015, says it has not worked with the boxer since last year and distanced itself from his views.

‘Wonderful Pistachios is not currently affiliated with Manny Pacquiao nor do his views align with ours,’ said the brand’s spokeswoman, Jennifer George, in a statement.

‘Wonderful Pistachios stands firmly for diversity and equality, and we proudly support marriage equality and inclusion around the world.’

Unlike other professional athletes, who rely heavily on sponsorship money as a source of income, boxers at Pacquiao’s level traditionally earn the bulk of their income from matches. It’s thought that he earned over $100million (€90million) from his fight against Floyd Mayweather last year.

However, Forbes still estimate that he earned $12million (€10.8million) last year through endorsements, chiefly Nike, Foot Locker and Nestlé – so being dumped by the sportswear brand is sure to rankle. It also sends out a strong message to other athletes that expressing homophobic views is increasingly unacceptable for commercial sponsors.

The termination of commercial endorsements is also sure to smart with those members of Pacquiao’s team who helped to arrange them.

‘When we fail to educate and persuade athletes directly, and many LGBT activists have tried for years with Mr. Pacquiao, then trust this: Their managers, agents and PR teams will do our work for us,’ said Scott Wooledge of social media campaign creation company,Memeographs. They all work on commission. ‘And earning ten or more percent of $12M is better for them than 10% of nothing.’

Foot Locker has not responded to a request for comment from Gay Star Business.

UPDATE: Nestlé say that they have no current relationship with Manny Pacquiao. In an email, Meike Schmidt, Corporate Spokesperson, told Gay Star Business: ‘Nestlé is not a current sponsor of Manny Pacquiao. We had a one-time promotion with him in 2015, which has ended.’