Pacquiao's Problem: Dealing With Discriminating Employees


It has been revealed that Nike has terminated all working contracts with boxer Manny Pacquiao after he made negative remarks regarding homosexual relationships.

Business men in boxing ring

Name Calling and Throwing Punches

Pacquiao's comments came in an interview, where he described homosexuals as "worse than animals" – using the bible as justification for his views – and have resulted in a slew of high-profile exchanges.

Pacquiao's then sponsor, Nike, has since pulled the plug on its relationship with the boxer, and in a statement said:

"[His] views are abhorrent... Nike strongly opposes discrimination of any kind and has a long history of supporting and standing up for the rights of the LGBT community."

Later, in an Instagram video, Pacquiao has later apologised for his comments, stating:

"I'm sorry for hurting people by comparing homosexuals to animals. Please forgive me for those I've hurt. I still stand on my belief that I'm against same sex marriage because of what the Bible says, but I'm not condemning LGBT. I love you all with the love of the Lord. God Bless you all and I'm praying for you."

But in light of being dropped by Nike, what does this mean for Pacquiao in the employment world – and does Nike have any responsibilities as a business to manage Pacquiao's views that are put into the public domain?

Not All Publicity Is Good Publicity

Pacquiao's comments are obviously damaging to a huge brand like Nike; David Hession, solicitor in the employment law department wades through the murky waters to give you the explanation; was Nike within its rights as an employer to cut all ties with Pacquiao?

"It is very clear that the beliefs of Manny Pacquiao and Nike were at odds. By publicly announcing his homophobic views, Pacquiao triggered a chain of events that led to the disassociation of Nike with him.

It is difficult to say whether the two parties had a clause in their agreement that covered discriminatory remarks, but it is possible that his comments have been interpreted as misconduct – this may be how Nike ended the working relationship. In serious misconduct cases, employers may be entitled to terminate an employee’s contract without providing any form of notice.

It is important for employers to carry out reasonable investigations when allegations of misconduct do arise.

This case highlights the importance of having a solid contract with employees and high profile celebrities who are often seen as the face of your brand. Employers can also help to protect themselves by putting in place policies and procedures which deal with issues such as discrimination and equal opportunities. By taking reasonable steps to prevent discriminatory conduct, employers can reduce the risk of incurring substantial liabilities. This can also help to reduce any adverse publicity that organisations may face.

It also indicates the very real need for training in workplace conduct towards any and all minority groups."

Employment Law Issues?

If your business has a public figure that represents your brand, it's important to get the right level of employment law advice; it could be the difference between building and breaking your brand's image.

Our team of highly experienced employment solicitors is on hand to give you the straight-forward and jargon free legal guidance you need. We make it our business to understand yours, so you're never left in the lurch by a renegade public comment.

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