Will boxer Tyson Fury pay the price for his knockout homophobia?

The Daily Beast

December 9, 2015

On Wednesday afternoon, in the passenger seat of a van, boxing’s heavyweight world champion Tyson Fury stopped to answer a BBC reporter’s questions.

Fury’s place in the shortlist of nominations for the BBC Sports Personality of the Year (SPOTY) competition has caused all-round consternation, given his unapologetic homophobia—he compared homosexuality to pedophilia—and misogyny.

There’s a petition to get Fury’s name removed from the shortlist, and other athletes have reportedly threatened to boycott the event.

The BBC insist they will not remove Fury’s name from the shortlist.

A spokesperson said: “The Sports Personality shortlist is compiled by a panel of industry experts and is based on an individual’s sporting achievement—it is not an endorsement of an individual’s personal beliefs either by the BBC or members of the panel.”

Newspaper columnists have weighed in to say the vote should go ahead and let the public decide who wins, and what that should stand for. The victor will be announced on Dec. 20.

And, meanwhile, sitting in the van, Fury was brimming with Jesus.

The hesitant reporter, sounding like a little boy discovering long trousers for the first time—or maybe he was just shocked to get his scoop—asked if Fury had anything to say.

“I’ve got lots to tell you,” Fury said. “Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved.”

The BBC reporter doughtily persisted, and asked if that was his response to people who wanted him ejected from the SPOTY shortlist.

“Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and you’ll be saved,” Fury repeated. And Bible class was far from over.

Journalists are pursuing Fury principally because of remarks he made to the Mail On Sunday’s Oliver Holt (whom Fury has gone on to subsequently physically threaten) in a recent interview.

Holt wrote: “There is no filter. He begins to make sweeping and repugnant statements about what he interprets as the evils that he says are hurrying us towards the apocalypse. It is hard not to feel worried about his mental well-being. He says that always happens when men are ‘filled up with God.’”

Then Holt quoted Fury: “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 pedophilia.

“Who would have thought in the ’50s and ’60s that those first two would be legalised?

“When I say pedophiles can be made legal, that sounds like crazy talk doesn’t it? But back in the ’50s and early ’60s, for them first two to be made legal would have been looked on as a crazy man again…

“This is a funny world we live in and an evil world. People can say, ‘Oh, you are against abortions, you are against pedophilia, you are against homosexuality, you’re against whatever,’ but my faith and my culture is all based on the Bible.

“The Bible was written a long time ago, from the beginning of time until now, and if I follow that and it tells me it’s wrong, then it’s wrong for me. That’s just my opinion.”

The Telegraph brought together Tyson’s other charming quotes.

On women in boxing: “I think they’re very nice when they’re walking around that ring, holding them cards. I like them actually. They give me inspiration when I’m tired. I’m all for it. I’m not sexist. I believe a woman’s best place is in the kitchen and on her back. That’s my personal belief. Making me a good cup of tea, that’s what I believe.”

On his wife: “Sometimes she needs an upper cut, but other times she doesn’t.”

Nearly 130,000 people, at the time of writing, have signed a petition to get Fury removed from the SPOTY shortlist.

The row led Fury to release his own statement: “I am aware of the recent newspaper articles and I would like to put on record that I am not homophobic.

“I have homosexual friends and I do not judge them because of their sexuality. My comments that you may have read are from the holy scriptures and this is what I live from.”

However, the controversy is far from abating. Greater Manchester Police is now investigating Fury for a possible hate crime, after Fury’s anti-gay comments were repeated on the BBC this week.

This incident came after BBC presenter Clive Myrie called Fury a “dickhead” on live television.

The BBC also reportedly threatened to suspend BBC Northern Ireland reporter Andy West for saying he is “ashamed” of working for the corporation, given Fury’s inclusion on the SPOTY shortlist.

On Wednesday, the Sports Journalists’ Association withdrew their invitation to Fury to attend another event, the British Sports Awards, scheduled to take place Dec. 17, after the threats Fury made against Holt, who had reported on Fury’s “repugnant comments on homosexuality and women.”

Meanwhile, after apparently threatening to remove himself from the SPOTY shortlist in protest at Fury’s remarks, Olympic long jump medal-winner Greg Rutherford said on Wednesday he would now take part in the contest after all.

Fury’s response to the gyre of criticism he faces has been its own strange set of polarities.

First, he was unapologetic. “They can suck my balls. How about that for a bit of heavyweight-champion talking?… I am Tyson Fury, Gypsy King [his ring moniker] champion of the world. Enough said.”

Inviting critics of his homophobia to suck his balls sounds like a pretty gay invitation to us, but hey.

Then on Wednesday came the rather implausible tweet:

Fury was also recently stripped of his IBF heavyweight belt after fighting Wladimir Klitschko at the end of November, instead of mandatory challenger Vyacheslav Glazkov. However, he retains his WBA, WBO, and IBO heavyweight titles.

He has a very intense father, John, who once disrupted a press conference instructing the assembled reporters to “bow down” to his son, who was no less than an “eighth wonder of the world.”

John Fury also advised the media, biblically: “Be real, people. Change your lives now.”

What did Tyson Fury have to say about being stripped off his IBF championship belt, the BBC reporter asked on Wednesday.

“Jesus loves me. He loves you too, and he loves you too [this said, indicating the camera crew],” Fury said. “He loves the people in here [the van], and he loves everybody in the world. All you’ve got to do is repent of your sins and you will be forgiven.”

The reporter asked Fury if he wanted to, or still could win the SPOTY contest.

“John 3:16,” Fury replied, referring to the famous Bible passage that he quoted as: “For God so loved the world he gave his only begotten son. Whoever believes in him shall have eternal life, and shall not perish.”

More Bible passages followed via Fury’s Twitter account, including from Matthew 10:22: “You will be hated by everyone because of me, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved.”

The fascinating thing will be to see if Fury’s supporters will mobilize behind him in the SPOTY vote, and how strongly and actively the world of sport and sports fans—never traditionally homo-friendly—interrogate and even condemn the boxer for his views.

The BBC journalist asked Fury if had any message for his many critics. Did he still stand by his comments?

“Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved,” Fury replied.

“OK, Tyson,” the journalist said, making to leave this strange encounter.

“The only way is through Jesus into heaven,” the boxer continued. “That’s all I can say. The A to Z, the Alpha, the Omega, Jesus is the way, the key, and the only way into heaven.”

Before he was driven off, Fury said, “Peace out,” kissed his hand lightly, and blew its invisible contents at the camera.

It would be safe to say Tyson Fury’s many critics aren’t feeling the love.