Tuesday 20 February 2018

Greg Rutherford has 'grave concerns' about sharing SPOTY stage with Tyson Fury

Greg Rutherford has said Tyson Fury's views give him grave concerns about sharing a stage with the boxer
Greg Rutherford has said Tyson Fury's views give him grave concerns about sharing a stage with the boxer
The BBC is facing calls to remove boxer Tyson Fury from the Sports Personality of the Year shortlist

Sports Personality of the Year nominee Greg Rutherford has said Tyson Fury's "outdated and derogatory" views give him "grave concerns" about sharing a stage with the heavyweight boxer.

But the Olympic and world long jump champion said he has gone back on his decision to pull out of the ceremony after discussions with the BBC and his family.

Rutherford's decision came as more than 125,000 signed an online petition calling for Fury to be removed from the shortlist for the BBC sports award.

The corporation was also accused of double standards by human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell, who said Fury would never have been shortlisted if his comments were racist instead of homophobic and misogynistic.

The BBC has insisted his position on the shortlist is not a reflection of Fury's personal views, but recognition of his sporting achievement this year.

Rutherford said everybody has the right to freedom of speech but he believes "the nature of these comments" undermine the struggles society has been through.

"As such, I wanted to speak with the BBC about sharing a stage with somebody that had views that are so strongly against my own. After doing so, I can confirm that reports that I am withdrawing from the ceremony are not true," he said.

Rutherford tweeted that he had decided to withdraw from the contest on Sunday night, but changed his mind upon realising how important his nomination was for his family.

"I have opinions, of which I was privately clear," he tweeted. "I DID pull out of SPOTY, on Sunday I wrote to the BBC requesting removal.

"Throughout the next 2 days the SPOTY team asked me to stay on. Also, I realised my nomination meant so much to my family.

"I then asked myself, do I really want to disappoint my own family just because of a bigot's views? The answer was no."

Fury has been criticised since a November interview with the Mail On Sunday in which 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 one's paedophilia."

The boxer has also been accused of sexism after a YouTube video emerged of him saying Olympic heptathlon champion Jessica Ennis-Hill "slaps up good", before adding: "A woman's best place is in the kitchen and on her back - that's my personal belief."

Greater Manchester Police have confirmed they are investigating hate crime allegations against the boxer.

Mr Tatchell said he believes the police investigation is "excessive and unwarranted", adding: "In a free society, objectionable opinions should not be subject to police inquiries unless they involve threats, menaces, harassment or incitement to violence. Tyson has done none of these things."

But Mr Tatchell added : "The BBC is out of step with sporting professional bodies who say that prejudice has no place in any sport.

"If Fury had made racist comments I am certain that the BBC would have never shortlisted him. This decision smacks of double standards. Yet again the BBC is being more lenient with homophobia than it is with racism."

Sports minister Tracey Crouch said Fury's involvement in the awards is a matter for the BBC.

"This is something I'm sure the BBC are taking incredibly seriously and it's something they are going to have to look at and make a decision on," she said.

Press Association

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