Controversial boxer Tyson Fury is expected to defy gay rights’ protestors to take part in the Sports Personality of the Year (SPOTY) awards in Belfast, his promoter has said.
Fury, who pulled off a shock win over Ukrainian Wladimir Klitschko last month to become the world’s top heavyweight, has sparked outrage with a series of comments condemning homosexuality.
Gay rights groups opposed to the inclusion of the Manchester-based fighter – and committed Christian – on the SPOTY shortlist will stage a protest outside the SSE Arena on Sunday.
In an interview with a Sunday newspaper, Fury 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.”
The 27-year-old has also been accused of sexism after a video emerged of him saying fellow SPOTY contender Jessica Ennis-Hill “slaps up good”, before adding: “A woman’s best place is in the kitchen and on her back.”
Police are investigating whether the alleged homophobic comments constitute a “hate crime”.
Last night, a spokesman for Fury’s promoter, Hennessy Sports, said they expected him to be in Belfast as planned.
“As far as I know he’s going. I haven’t heard any different,” he said. 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 shortlist 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.
Asked if the BBC had any concerns about the planned protest, a spokeswoman for the corporation said: “We wouldn’t comment on security issues.”