So what exactly did Fury say? Prior to his winning the World Heavyweight title in a match against Wladimir Klitschko in November, Fury was asked his views on morality. His response has since been met with furious indignation from around the world.
"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. … For me, people can say 'oh, you’re against abortions and you're against paedophilia, you're against homosexuality, you're against whatever' but my faith and my culture is all based on the Bible. The Bible was written a long time ago, wasn't it, from the beginning of time until now so if I follow that and that tells me it's wrong, then it's wrong for me."
Well, for the last few years the spotlight has been turned on the sporting world in an attempt to address its lingering institutionalised homophobia. Though there are still very few sportsmen and women who have come out as LGBT in the UK, those who have were met with acclaim and widespread approval. The "old boys club" mentality of sporting institutions had become the last bastion of residual homophobia in the UK, but the tide appears to have finally turned. No longer can football fans get away with homophobic chanting. No longer does a sportsperson have to fear the end of their career if they're honest about their sexuality. So is Tyson Fury just an archaic relic of a bygone age? And does that reflect badly on the BBC for his inclusion in an award meant to reflect the current sporting climate?
The problem comes with the award's title. By naming it "Sports Personality", the BBC aren't necessarily referring wholly to sporting achievement. Essentially, the word "Personality" is twisting the award to add an edge of celebrity. Certainly, many of the past winners have been major celebrities as well as sportspeople, so should the BBC be including a person whose persona has become so widely affiliated with his homophobic comments? But again, a problem arises when you read his comments in context. His opposition to homosexuality is based on religious belief and the BBC is legally required to reflect and portray the religious beliefs of the entirety of British culture, so it's quite possible they felt his exclusion could be seen as censorship of his religious views and subsequently discriminatory on their part... But it's his affiliation of homosexuality with paedophilia that is most uncomfortable. Though the link isn't explicit in his comments, the implication is certainly present that homosexuality is just as immoral as something villified and illegal in the UK. Surely the weight of these dangerous comments far outweighs any need to represent his religious views? Surely?
The award is voted by the public and I thoroughly don't expect it to be awarded to Fury tomorrow night, but there is the part of me that worries the media ruckus might have created a reactionary vote from those still opposed to LGBT causes. With the rest of the vote split between nine other deserving winners, I can't help but worry that many people who might not usually have voted will now be doing so just to make a political point. I have faith that the majority of the UK will be voting for whomever they believe should win the award, but if the vote is close enough, just 11% of the vote could sway it toward Fury and everything he represents... and that's a little bit worrying.
But if a person's decision to vote is based solely on sporting achievement and they believe Fury's boxing title is deserving of this accolade, should people be voting for him anyway? Essentially, Tyson Fury was one of the UK's top sportspeople this year. By winning the match against Klitschko, he became the first British World Heavyweight Champion in six years and under any other circumstances, his inclusion in the list would not be debated. So should someone's persona, views or image effect whether they deserve to win an award based on achievement? We live in a democracy after all, with freedom of speech enshrined as a fundamental right. So what the BBC really need to decide is whether this is actually awarding Sportsperson Of The Year, or if it's a popularity contest of sporting celebrities. Because without clear guidelines, it's impossible to tell.
BBC Sports Personality Of The Year 2015 Shortlist:
Jessica Ennis - Athletics
Mo Farrah - Athletics
Chris Froome - Cyling
Tyson Fury - Boxing
Lewis Hamilton - Formula 1
Andy Murray - Tennis
Adam Peaty - Swimming
Greg Rutherford - Athletics
Kevin Sinfield - Rugby League
Max Whitlock - Gymnastics