THERE is a very thin line between criticizing and condemning. In the opinion of many, particularly those who comprise the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bi-sexual and transgender) community, former world boxing champion and aspiring Senator Manny Pacquiao crossed this line.
Pacquiao drew lava-hot, verbal rebuttals following the statement he issued in a television interview wherein he likened a lesbian/gay physical relationship to something 'worse than animals.' In a wink of an eye, the world collapsed on Pacquiao. Celebrities from as far as Hollywood land fired back with equally acerbic words. Pacquiao lost two million followers on Twitter and even the most respected sporting publications in the world rebuked him. Nike, easily the most popular sports apparel group, dropped Pacquiao like a hot potato.
Pacquiao has since apologized, but as the old saying goes, the damage has been done. Truth be told, he only has himself to blame. The issue on same-sex marriage is a very sensitive one and the last thing you want is to pour gasoline into a burning house. Pacquiao has been a politician for some time now but he has not mastered the art of diplomacy that goes with the territory.
From the get go, Pacquiao should have tapped the services of a good speech writer/adviser. He could have responded to the same-sex query like a true politician, without compromising his personal beliefs. This is not the first time Pacquiao misfired verbally. Remember one of his pre-campaign pitches wherein he promised to pass a law that would make it mandatory for athletes to suit up for the national team? Apparently, nobody even advised Pacquiao that such a thought violates the prohibition on involuntary servitude.
A more politically suave Pacquiao could have answered the same-sex marriage query this way: “Everybody knows that I strictly adhere to my faith and that the very teachings of the Bible speak only of a union between man and woman. This is my position on the matter but as a politician I know that I have to keep an open mind because laws are meant to be dynamic.” This is the better and safer response, considering that Pacquiao is both a preacher and a lawmaker. A reply like this would have shown that Pacquiao is even cognizant of the separation between Church and State. Instead, Pacquiao stretched his remark with the “worse than animal” utterance. This is what drew the ire of the LGBT community. Pacquiao claimed that what he said is actually written in the Bible, if such is the case then he should have just quoted the Good Book directly and added nothing more.
It remains to be seen how the latest controversy in Pacquiao’s career will affect his bid for the Senate considering that the LGBT community has promised to campaign against him. Even boxing promoter Bob Arum is wary that ticket sales for Pacquiao’s upcoming fight with Timothy Bradley Jr. might take a hit.
The counterpunches have been vicious, with some even digging up Pacquiao’s checkered past. The slugfest has been reduced into virtual mudslinging. But here lies the rub: Who is holier than the Pope? Not Pacquiao and not the members of the LGBT community. In the end, you do not have to be straight or gay to forgive, you just have to be a human being. This is what makes us a cut above animals.
Pacquiao made a mistake, but who has not made one? The key is learning from it and emerging a better person.