Retired heavyweight boxer Evander Holyfield, 51, has had many firsts in his career. He was the first Heavyweight since Muhammad Ali to win the world title three times. When Mike Tyson bit his ear, he became the first boxer to sustain such an injury in the ring during a championship bout. Yesterday he became the first cast member in "Celebrity Big Brother UK" history to be reprimanded by producers for making anti-gay comments on the air.
The comments made by Holyfield were in response to fellow cast mate and runner-up on the UK version of "The Apprentice" Luisa Zissman’s remark about gay boxers.
Zissman said "I think it’s really bad that no one stands up and says it in the sports industry." To which Holyfield replied "But that ain’t normal." Holyfield then, without quoting any particular chapter or verse went on to defend his comment by saying "The Bible lets you know there’s wrong, there’s right."
The level of discourse went downhill from there.
According to The Daily Mail, when Zissman expressed that she felt that gay people were born gay, Holyfield replied: "If you were born and your leg were turned this way - what would you do? You go to the doctor and get it fixed back, right? All I’m trying to tell you, you know how handicap people are born? You can’t say because they [gay people] are born that way you can’t move that. Yes, it is a choice. C’mon, how can you not say you ain’t gay unless you sleeping with the opposite sex?"
According to The Belfast Telegraph, Zissman repeatedly attempted to get the former heavyweight champion to change the subject, saying: "I don’t think this is an appropriate conversation to have in this house."
Holyfield was later called into the diary room of the Big Brother house by Producers who said: "While Big Brother understands these are the views you hold, they aren’t the views that are held by a large section of society, and expressing these views will be extremely offensive to many people."
When asked if he knew why his comments could be deemed offensive, the unrepentant boxer replied: "Yes I understand why. I thought I was just, I forgot about the thing. I was just telling her my opinion, but it’s not like I was going to mention (it) to anybody else. It was just our conversation."
The show’s producers warned Holyfield, telling him: "Big Brother does not tolerate the use of offensive language and must therefore warn you to consider very carefully the effect expressing such views may have and the harm and offence you may cause by repeating these views inside the house."
Later in the episode, Holyfield was evicted alongside Zissman after the pair failed to complete a series of challenges.
According to The Independent, Holyfield’s comments on "Big Brother" unleashed a torrent of reactions on Twitter including one from singer Boy George who wrote: "Shame, I had such admiration for Mr. Evander Holyfield, he seems dignified and I was sure he was a cool, smart, giant!" The gay pop star continued: ""At customs there should be a huge sign! Welcome to Britain, racism, sexism, homophobia and bad hair are not tolerated."
In a 2012 article, The Independent reported that Holyfield was once diagnosed with a heart condition which caused him to retire temporarily, and there are disturbing portents of incipient brain damage. His speech is slurred and his reflexes are suspiciously slow. There have also been persistent but unproven rumors that Holyfield’s famously muscled physique has been maintained with the assistance of steroids.
From our media partner EDGE