In what marks an especially inauspicious start to boxer Manny "Pacman" Pacquiao's (57-6-2, 38KOs) return to Los Angeles on Saturday, March 12th to train with longtime coach Freddie Roach for his farewell fight against Timothy "Desert Storm" Bradley Jr. (33-1-1, 13KOs), scheduled for April 9 at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, Pacquiao has been officially banned from the upscale outdoor mall in Los Angeles, California known as the Grove. The official reason for the expulsion stems from more corporate backlash following homophobic statements Pacquiao made in his home country of the Philippines effectively comparing gays to animals by saying that they were "worse than animals" as a matter of "common sense," during an appearance on the Filipino station TV5.
Well before this recent vote of no confidence from the Grove, already these statements had cost the fighter dearly both in terms of lost popularity and lost finances with NIKE dropping all contracts and ties to the superstar in late February immediately after his anti-gay statements with the public announcement that NIKE, "strongly opposes discrimination of any kind,"and found Pacquiao's statements "abhorrent."
This week's official ruling came down from the Grove after Pacquiao took his entourage to see a movie at the Grove's movie theater as a means of relaxation after training. Per the Grove's owner Rick Caruso via TMZ and The Los Angeles Times, Caruso stated unequivocally that: "Manny Pacquiao is no longer welcome," at the Grove with Caruso adding, "A lot of people from the gay community come to the Grove and they have a right not to feel uncomfortable."
It should be noted that in fact this is not the first time Pacquiao has been banned from the Grove - as per previous reports in the news and past tweets on the Grove's official twitter page. In 2012, Pacquiao was banned for a biblical verse that he quoted declaring homosexual acts to be punishable by death.
Whether one agrees or disagrees with the statements of Pacquiao, or the reaction of Caruso on behalf of the Grove, once again in this highly politicized and divisive national climate, the expulsion of an public figure from a fairly public (though privately owned) business certainly brings to mind hard questions pertaining to Freedom of Speech and Freedom of Religion, as Pacquiao bases his anti-gay beliefs on scripture as a devout Christian. In any case, it will be interesting to see what happens next with Manny Pacquiao as well as the rest of our nation as we get closer and closer to the election of a new commander in chief.