LONDON — Former heavyweight boxing champion Evander Holyfield is facing calls to be kicked off the U.K.’s “Celebrity Big Brother” after likening homosexuality to a “handicap,” and insisting that being gay is a choice and “ain’t normal.”
The remarks came in a conversation broadcast Sunday in which housemate Luisa Zissman asked Holyfield if there were any gay boxers.
She said, “I think it’s really bad that no-one stands up and says it in the sporting industries. I think it’s good to be open about that because it’s normal.”
But Holyfield, a self-proclaimed born-again Christian, disagreed: “What would be good about it? That ain’t normal.”
“The Bible lets you know there’s wrong, there’s right,” he said.
“It is a choice, come on, that ain’t the way nobody is made. If you were born and your leg were turned this way, what do you do, you go to the doctor and get it fixed back right,” said Holyfield, suggesting homosexuality is a disease that can be cured.
“All I’m trying to tell you, you know how handicap people are born?” he continued. “You can’t say because they are born that way you can’t move that … Yes it is a choice.”
Holyfield was quickly called to the Diary Room and warned by “Big Brother” producers against making further potentially “offensive” comments.
“Before you entered the Big Brother house, the rules regarding unacceptable language and behavior were explained to you. Last night, in a conversation with Luisa, you expressed the view that being gay was not normal and that it could be fixed,” reminded producers.
Holyfield said he understood that his remarks could be viewed as offensive, but said he never intended to influence others with his religious beliefs.
But the warning wasn’t enough, and viewers reacted on social media, calling on the show to give him the boot.
The response by producers of the British version of “Big Brother” stands in contrast to their U.S. counterparts at CBS, who came under fire last year for widespread racist and homophobic remarks by housemates on the 2013 U.S. broadcast.
Holyfield is now up for eviction for failing to complete a series of challenges.