Women's rights activists are outraged that he was freed on bail and his employers at Nike (NYSE: NKE) have essentially fired him, but track star (and now accused murderer) Oscar Pistorius still enjoys significant support from his fans and admirers in South Africa and other parts of the world.
Indeed, on Friday, after the judge in his case granted him bail of 1 million South African Rand (about $113,000) after four days of contentious hearings, supporters of the man accused of gunning down his model girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp, joyfully shouted “Yes!” while members of his family openly wept in court.
Fans and admirers had been camped for days outside the Pretoria court of Magistrate Desmond Nair who granted bail to the Paralympics athlete, citing that due to his enormous fame, Pistorius could not be deemed a flight risk.
Pistorius, who is due back in court in early June, claimed he shot at what he thought was an intruder in his home on Valentine’s Day and then felt anguish after realizing whom he had killed.
“I fail to understand how I could be charged with murder, let alone premeditated murder, as I had no intention to kill my girlfriend,” he stated in his affidavit.
Apparently, some of his fans believe his version of events.
On a Twitter account called “Oscar Pistorius Fans” (with the handle @FansofPistorius), fans were able to express their admiration for their sporting hero.
One tweeter named Lawree Pops Dee declared: “I [am] happy as #oscarpistorius is granted bail -- he's not a blood cold killer, he cried as he moved into the holding cells before going home.”
Another person stated: “Wish I could show Oscar [I] would help him in any way. Hope everyone is doing much better now as well.”
South African media reported that following the bail hearing, hundreds of people blocked traffic outside the courthouse in order to catch a glimpse of Pistorius, with some people carrying placards of support, one of which read: “Oscar we trust in you and your love for Reeva,” while another had a more compromised message: “Nobody is perfect.”
According to Wildlands Conservation Trust, an organization Pistorius supported, he was the most popular celebrity in South Africa in 2011 and likely remains among the biggest stars in the country.
Reportedly, Twitter in South Africa crashed on the Friday that Pistorius received bail, with millions of people commenting on the development.
“I will always love my Oscar,” Pretoria native Wayda Draai told South African media. “Oscar is just a special person. How many sportsmen does this country have? Oscar stands out.”
On Oscar Pistorius’ own website (http://oscarpistorius.com), thousands of well-wishing messages have poured in.
A statement, apparently from the Pistorius family, read: “We are completely overwhelmed with the extent of the support for Oscar. … whilst we are not able to show all of these on this website, we can assure you that every message will be kept. Your heartfelt thoughts and prayers are appreciated at this difficult time.”
One fan, describing him or herself as a 12-year-old from Bromley, UK, wrote: “You are my hero, my Idol, my NO 1. … I may only be 12 years old but I look up to you with pride and Joy. … You are a legend in my eyes because you have shown that through your achievement that ‘Anything is possible.’ You have made a difference to so many children and given them hope and dreams to follow and fulfill. I have been praying so hard for you and am so glad that God answered my prayers. I am thrilled that you are at home with your family.”
Another fan, a South African named “Amy” wrote an especially long message that even included a poem.
She declared: “Dear Oscar, despite what is happening, I believe in you and you are an inspiration to millions around the globe. My deepest sympathy goes out to the family of Reeva. You will always be my mega-star. … I pray for you and your family. Never lose hope because nobody is perfect. After hearing the fantastic news on Friday I cried non-stop because I know you are innocent and I trust and believe in you. It was just a tragic accident. My prayers were answered.”
Palash has worked as a business journalist for 21 years in New York.