With the Phil Robertson debacle fading quickly from our collective memories, it was only a matter of time before another outspoken reality star sparked a backlash with a homophobic rant.
Evander Holyfield, the former heavyweight boxing champion, is taking a beating on Twitter Monday after saying homosexuality is “not normal.” The 51-year-old slugger made the remarks on the U.K. reality series “Celebrity Big Brother 13,” which premiered Friday on Britain’s Channel 5. Holyfield was having a conversation with Luisa Zissman, a fellow houseguest and former “Apprentice” contestant, who told the boxer that she believes gay people should be open with their sexuality.
“But that ain’t normal,” Holyfield countered.
When pressed to clarify the remark, Holyfield appeared to take a page straight out of Phil Robertson’s playbook: “The Bible lets you know there’s wrong, there’s right,” he said.
He went on to imply that homosexuality was a malady that could be cured with the proper treatment: “If you’re born and your leg were turned this way, what do you do? You go to a doctor and get it fixed back, right?”
Holyfield was later reprimanded by the show’s producers, after he was called into the “Diary Room,” the soundproofed area where houseguests speak privately to the cameras and crew. There, one of the show’s producers warned him that such anti-gay views are “extremely offensive to many people” and not the view “held by a large section of society.” Holyfield responded by saying he understands and that he had forgotten about the cameras when he made the remark.
The controversy didn’t end there, of course. Hundreds of people predictably took to Twitter Monday to express their outrage, with many saying the boxing legend should be ashamed of himself.
No, @holyfield, gay cannot be fixed. Such a shame that stupidity can't be either...
â€” Matthew Shaw (@MattyBShaw) January 6, 2014
Others took the opportunity to joke about the belief that homosexuality can be “fixed.”
Does this mean i can start claiming disability benefits @holyfield ?
â€” Hayden Corrigan (@Haydencoz) January 6, 2014
Among Holyfield’s critics was none other than Boy George, who at first appeared more disappointed than angry, but later had harsh words for the boxer.
Shame, I had such admiration for Mr Evander Holyfield, he seemed dignified and I was sure he was a cool, smart, giant!
â€” Boy George (@BoyGeorge) January 5, 2014
I have no interest in converting 'homophobes' or 'racists' I just wish they'd piss off!
â€” Boy George (@BoyGeorge) January 6, 2014
Many others posted tweets defending Holyfield, pointing out that, like Phil Robertson, the boxer was only expressing what is taught in the Bible.
@holyfield thank you for standing up for what you believe in. We don't let the world dictate us, because we are in it, not of it. God bless
â€” David Williams III (@DavidWilliamsI2) January 6, 2014
At the same time, support for Holyfield doesn’t appear to be reaching the same volume as support for Robertson, which resulted in fervent online petitions and Facebook protests at rallying-cry levels.
Holyfield’s comments, meanwhile, may have real-world consequences that extend beyond social media. The Guardian on Monday reported that Channel 5 could face an investigation by Ofcom, the British government’s regulatory body for the broadcast industry. The organization, the Guardian writes, said it had fielded numerous complaints regarding the episode. It said it was assessing the situation but no decision was made as of yet.
Watch the full Holyfield clip here via the Mirror.
Christopher Zara covers media, culture, entertainment and the arts. He joined IBTimes in June 2012. From 2005 to 2012, he served as managing editor of Show Business, a trade...