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Nike Cuts Ties with Boxer Manny Pacquiao

Manny Pacquiao, left, punches Timothy Bradley II at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas during a fight in April 2014.Jed Jacobsohn—Sports Illustrated

Nike, the world’s largest athletic gear maker, has ended the company’s endorsement deal with boxer Manny Pacquiao after the athlete made homophobic comments during a Filipino television broadcast.

Pacquiao, a Philippines senatorial candidate, generated outrage when he said, “Gay people are worse than animals” on TV. He initially defended those comments by citing the Bible, though he later apologized for the comparison. He maintained his position that he remains against same sex marriage.

The tone of the comments and the subsequent apology was too little, too late for Nike (NKE).

“We find Manny Pacquiao’s comments abhorrent.” the company said in a statement. “Nike strongly opposes discrimination of any kind and has a long history of supporting and standing up for the rights of the LGBT community.”

Nike added, “We no longer have a relationship with Manny Pacquiao.”

Athletic sponsorships are important to help companies like Nike sell gear, though they also present risks when high-profile athletes behave poorly or end up making statement like Pacquiao’s which many Americans would find offensive. Other notable athletes Nike has severed ties with in recent years include South African sprinter Oscar Pistorius, the NFL’s Ray Rice, and cyclist Lance Armstrong.