Philippine boxing hero Manny Pacquiao is holding sponsorship negotiations with sports apparel companies after US giant Nike dropped him over his controversial comments on same-sex couples, his business manager said on Tuesday.
Nike cut ties with the eight-time world champion last week after he described gay couples as “worse than animals”.
The 37-year-old’s comments, which Nike described as “abhorrent”, touched off a firestorm of international criticism, particularly from US athletes and the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.
“There are several already now in the pipeline. They (the Pacquiao camp) were actually negotiating with some already,” Pacquiao business manager Eric Pineda told AFP without naming the companies.
He said they included a “multi-million-dollar” brand that would likely replace Nike as the supplier of Pacquiao’s sports gear.
Pineda also said no Philippine-based companies had dropped Pacquiao as a commercial endorser despite the furore over his comments.
“They will still be sponsoring Manny. Just look at his shorts,” he said, referring to commercial logos that cover the training togs of Pacquiao, who is preparing to fight US foe Timothy Bradley in Las Vegas in April and then retire from boxing.
Pacquiao, a national hero in the Philippines, has made a fortune endorsing products and brands ranging from automobiles, motorcycles, car batteries, pizzas, beer, a bank and even property firms.
A devout Christian, Pacquiao has issued a public apology while also defending his comments, saying he was merely quoting the Bible.
He remains widely popular in the Philippines, where he is running for a seat in the Senate in May elections, a higher-profile national post than his current seat in the House of Representatives representing a southern province.
Surveys have shown that despite Pacquiao’s lacklustre performance in parliament, he is likely to win a Senate seat.