Gay rights groups opposed to the inclusion of boxer Tyson Fury on the Sports Personality of the Year (SPOTY) shortlist will stage a protest in Belfast on Sunday.
The Rainbow Project, along with LGBT groups Cara-Friend, HEReNI and Fight4Equality will be outside the SSE Arena as thousands of sports fans arrive to rub shoulders with their heroes.
Following his shock win over Ukrainian Wladimir Klitschko last month to become the world’s top heavyweight, Fury sparked outrage with a series of comments condemning homosexuality.
In an interview with the Mail on Sunday, the descendant of Irish traveller bare knuckle fighters and committed Christian, said: “There are only three things that need to be accomplished before the devil comes home: one of them is homosexuality being legal in countries, one of them is abortion and the other one’s paedophilia.”
Fury has also been accused of sexism after a YouTube video emerged of him saying Olympic heptathlon champion Jessica Ennis-Hill “slaps up good”, before adding: “A woman’s best place is in the kitchen and on her back - that’s my personal belief.”
Greater Manchester Police are investigating whether the alleged homophobic comments constitute a “hate crime”.
John O’Doherty of The Rainbow Project said: “It is very disappointing that the BBC have ignored public opinion and refused to remove Tyson Fury from the shortlist even though his late addition came after his disgraceful and inflammatory comments about women and gay people.
“An excellent boxer Tyson Fury may be, however his extremely callous and erroneous remarks about our community make him an unworthy candidate to be recognised among the UK’s excellent sporting personalities and ambassadors.
“To highlight the widespread opposition to the comments of Tyson Fury and the shame he has brought on the sport of boxing, we and our partners in Cara-Friend, HEReNI and Fight4Equality will protest at the awards ceremony at the SSE Arena so that the BBC will understand that when they put homophobes and misogynists on a short list of athletes worthy of celebration, they will rightly be condemned.”
Mr O’Doherty added: “In future the corporation should give more thought to recognising those boxers who more fully represent the greatness of boxing such as Carl Frampton or Paddy Barnes.”
More than 138,000 people have now signed an online petition at Change.org calling for Fury to be removed from the SPOTY shortlist.