Last week the BBC announced the shortlist for their prestigious Sports Personality of the Year Award. On the list was a surprise last minute addition, the World Heavyweight Boxing Champion Tyson Fury.
Fury made headlines at the beginning of November after conflating homosexuality and paedophilia in an interview with the Mail on Sunday.
He said, “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 is paedophilia. So who would have thought in the 50s and early 60s that those first two would be legalised.”
But these were not the only homophobic comments Fury has made. In 2012 a tweet from his twitter account proclaimed, "dont like gays shoul all b shot dead" and a year later he was fined by boxing authorities for homophobia.
Fury has also made sexist remarks saying fellow nominee Jessica Ennis-Hill, “That’s the runner, isn’t it? She’s good, she’s won quite a few medals, she slaps up good as well. When she’s got a dress on she looks quite fit.” Asked his views on female boxers he said “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.”
45,000 people have now signed my petition asking the BBC to reconsider Fury’s inclusion on the shortlist, but so far the BBC are resisting. The BBC would have us believe that the criteria for winning their sports ‘personality’ award is on sporting achievement alone. Their own terms and conditions for the award states that judges will select a short list that ‘takes into account ‘impact’ over and beyond the sport and sporting achievement in question.’
By nominating Fury for this award the BBC are putting him up as a role model to young people around the UK and the world. They are sending a message that LGBTI people are second class citizens, that LGBTI people are not welcome in sport.
The barriers to LGBTI people in sport are enormous, years of homophobia have had their toll on LGBTI inclusion but with sporting ambassadors like Nicola Adams, the openly bisexual Olympic medal winning boxer and huge efforts by the LGBTI and sports sectors coming together we are making inroads. Sport is making an extra effort to be LGBTI inclusive and welcoming regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity or sex characteristics. We have a long way to go but this scandal sets us back.
Nobody can deny that recently the BBC have been working hard as an organisation to include LGBTI people in all their diversity in its content and programming. That was in ground breaking programmes such as ‘Transsexual Stories’, but again all that progress is at risk of being seriously undermined if all parts of the BBC, that includes BBC Sport, don’t fulfil their duties as the public sector broadcaster.
The BBC can continue to choose to ignore 45 thousand people at their own peril, but with the storm clouds already over the horizon for the BBC, with charter renewal, do they really want LGBTI people against them? The BBC in bunkering down are doing untold damage to sport, LGBTI inclusion and the brand of the national broadcaster. There is no place for homophobia in Sport and BBC Sport must now listen and take Tyson Fury off the shortlist.