A small but vocal group of protestors have picketed the BBC Sports Personality of the Year awards ceremony over the shortlisting of controversial boxing champion Tyson Fury.
Up to 30 gay and equal-rights campaigners held banners and chanted slogans such as “Anti-woman, anti-gay, Tyson Fury go away” and “Tyson Fury hear us clear, we don’t want your bigotry here”.
The protest outside Belfast’s SSE arena was kept well away from the red carpet but coincided with the arrival of the 7,500 audience.
John O’Doherty, director of The Rainbow Project, an LBGT support group, 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 ambassador.”
Fury has faced a barrage of criticism over his personal views since his victory over Ukranian Wladimir Klitschko to win the WBA, IBF and WBO belts in Dusseldorf last month.
Some 130,000 people had signed a petition calling for the BBC to remove the controversial fighter from its shortlist after allegedly homophobic and sexist comments.
Eighteen-year-old Aoife Dowds-Gibson said she felt compelled to take a stand.
She said: “I am disgusted by Tyson Fury’s words and I don’t think he should have been included in a personality award.”
The protestors were also joined by Northern Ireland’s Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness, who said he stood in solidarity with them but stopped short of saying the BBC should have excluded the boxer.