Manny Pacquiao was misquoted.
It sounds like a trite excuse for any athlete, something we’ve heard a million times before, but in Pacquiao’s case, this time, it’s true.
The Filipino champion has found himself in hot water over an interview with blogger Granville Ampong in Examiner.com. The interview dealt with Pacquiao’s opposition to United States president Barack Obama’s professed support for gay marriage.
Opposition to gay marriage is a perfectly valid position depending on one’s personal beliefs — presumptive Republican nominee Mitt Romney, Obama’s likely opponent in November’s US elections, already voiced his opposition to it.
What drew the ire of most of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community, however, was Pacquiao’s quote of a Bible passage, Leviticus 20:13, that promoted violence on their members. It read: “If a man lies with a man as one lies with a woman, both of them have done what is detestable. They must be put to death; their blood will be on their own heads.”
Because of that, LGBT groups are hitting Pacquiao where it would hurt most — his wallet. Gay Marriage USA has launched an online petition telling Nike to cease its sponsorship of Pacquiao. In its petition page, the group wrote: “Nike is a multi-billion dollar industry and LGBT people contribute billions to this company. It is completely unacceptable that such a high-profile company should be sponsoring a boxer who is encouraging violence towards LGBT people. Tell Nike to drop its sponsorship!”
Note that the group is taking issue not with Pacquiao’s opposition to gay marriage, but with his supposed encouragement of violence against members of the LGBT community.
Except, of course, Pacquiao never quoted that Bible passage. It was Ampong who wrote the passage himself, in the middle of the story. But he presented it in such a purposefully vague way that a less careful reader would in fact, attribute the quote to Pacquiao:
Engaging a radical shift as manifested by his insights shared during Bible studies which lasted more than one hour, around 10:00 p.m., with a song and his substantive prayer, Pacquiao counsels people to “just believe” what the Scripture says.
Pacquiao’s directive for Obama calls societies to fear God and not to promote sin, inclusive of same-sex marriage and cohabitation, notwithstanding what Leviticus 20:13 has been pointing all along: “If a man lies with a man as one lies with a woman, both of them have done what is detestable. They must be put to death; their blood will be on their own heads.”
In a follow-up blog post, Ampong said writers who thought that it was Pacquiao who recited the quote lacked reading comprehension. So why did he put that quote in the middle of his piece purportedly about Pacquiao’s own beliefs? He wrote:
I have simply reminded in my column how God made it clear in the Old Testament time that such practice of same-sex marriage is detestable and strictly forbidden, in as much as God wants to encourage his people practices that lead to health and happiness and fullness of life.
Ampong is, of course, being switik. There is no reason for him to post his own personal beliefs, right smack in Pacquiao’s discussion of his faith, except to project them as the boxer’s own.
For most of Pacquiao’s career, he has been a champion of the Filipino people, and in that role, people have projected all kinds of things onto him — he’s religious, he’s hard-working, he loves his mother, he loves his country, he’s generous, etc. In our minds, Pacquiao is all that because we want him to be all that — and that’s because we ourselves want to be all that. We project ourselves — our very best version — onto him. And sometimes, he even lives up to it.
And that’s what Ampong was doing — he was projecting onto Pacquiao his values, his belief, and yes, his homophobia. Unfortunately, it’s a hateful, misguided projection, and Pacquiao’s now suffering for it.
Jaemark Tordecilla is the managing editor of InterAKTV.