Greg Rutherford has confirmed that he wrote to the BBC requesting removal from the Sports Personality of the Year shortlist over the corporation’s controversial inclusion of Tyson Fury.
Rutherford said he was subsequently convinced to withdraw his request after meeting BBC executives but retains grave concerns over «very out-dated and derogatory comments» made by Fury.
Rutherford’s decision to go public with his unease will pile more pressure on the BBC to remove Fury from the list in light of his recent comments, in particular regarding the role of women and homosexuality.
Rutherford wrote on his Twitter feed: «I have opinions, of which I was privately clear. 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 claimed he is not interested in winning the BBC prize, insisting he has «more personality in the end of my little finger» than his shortlisted rivals, and insisting heptathlon champion Jessica Ennis-Hill «slaps up good» and «looks quite fit» in a dress.
He also launched a foul-mouthed tirade at signatories of a petition — now numbering over 100,000, calling for his removal from the programme.
Meanwhile the Sports Journalists’ Association said it had withdrawn its invitation to Fury to attend the British Sports Awards in London over his views and threats made to one of its members.
The SJA said in a statement: » The officers of the SJA took the decision reluctantly, since the British Sports Awards seek to recognise the year’s great sporting achievements, which include Fury’s heavyweight world title win.
«But the decision was made as a consequence of threats made by Fury against at least one sports journalist, an SJA member, who has written about the boxer’s repugnant comments on homosexuality and women.»
Fury could yet face action from the British Boxing Board of Control who are meeting this week to discuss his comments, and leading promoter Kellie Maloney says it is up to the authorities to make a stand.
Maloney said: «I believe the (British Boxing) Board of Control are having a hearing today. They will discuss it and he will be called up in front of the board but what can they do to him? They can fine him. It means all the world governing bodies should take some action against him.»
Maloney’s comments come after Greater Manchester Police (GMP) confirmed they were investigating hate crime allegations against the boxer.
Fury said in an interview with Jeremy Vine on BBC Radio 2 this week: »Homosexuality, abortion and paedophilia — them three things need to be accomplished before the world finishes. That’s what the Bible tells me.»
After that clip was played on Victoria Derbyshire’s BBC Two show, a spokeswoman for GMP said: »At 10:30am (on Tuesday) we received a report of a hate crime following comments made about homosexuality on the Victoria Derbyshire programme.
»As with all allegations of hate crime we are taking the matter extremely seriously and will be attending the victim’s address to take a statement in due course.»
Veteran gay and human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell has criticised the BBC’s «double standards» for failing to remove Fury from the shortlist.
Tatchell said: «Justifying his continued inclusion as a nominee for Sports Personality of the Year, the BBC claims that Fury should be judged solely on his sporting achievements.
«This is not the view of most sporting bodies, including the British Board of Boxing Control. They penalise athletes who express homophobic, racist and other bigoted opinions. Their policy is zero tolerance. 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 a decision on Fury’s involvement was strictly a matter for the BBC.
Crouch, speaking at a Professional Player Federation event highlighting anti-match-fixing initiatives at the House of Commons, said: «Not only is it a matter for the BBC but it is also a criminal investigation now.
«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.
«Sports personality of the year is a highlight for many who achieved great things over the year including volunteers and coaches as well as the big personalities, so it is an important part in the calendar of sport and their achievements are something that we should be celebrating.
«That’s something that the BBC will have to take into account when it is considering what to do about these comments from Tyson Fury.»
In an unrelated move, Fury has been stripped of the IBF belt he claimed following his sensational victory over Wladimir Klitschko at the end of last month.
The IBF said it acted because Fury turned down a fight against its mandatory challenger Vyacheslav Glazkov. Klitschko has exercised a rematch clause in the contract for his original fight with Fury, who still holds the WBA and WBO belts.
After a meeting of the British Boxing Board of Control on Wednesday, general secretary Robert Smith said the issue had been discussed but nothing would be made public until Fury had been contacted.
«We are in the process of informing Mr Fury of what’s been discussed today and once we’ve done that then that’ll be it,» Smith told ITN, declining to give any further information.