Greg Rutherford, the Olympic, Commonwealth, European and World long jump champion, has expressed concerns over appearing at the BBC Sports Personality of the Year alongside controversial world heavyweight boxing champion Tyson Fury but has denied he will withdraw from attending the event.
The 29-year-old has expressed his reservations over appearing on the same stage at the ceremony in Belfast as the Manchester-born fighter, who has come under fire for a series of homophobic and sexist comments.
The Guardian understood that Rutherford was threatening to withdraw from the event in the Northern Ireland capital over statements made by Fury either side of his victory over Wladimir Klitschko in November. A petition calling for the BBC to exclude the boxer from their shortlist has exceeded 125,000 and is set to be debated in parliament.
Rutherford and Fury make up two names on the 12-person shortlist for the annual prize alongside Jessica Ennis-Hill, Lewis Hamilton and Andy Murray – all of whom have come in for criticism from the unbeaten fighter. The Milton Keynes-born Rutherford has attacked the series of "out-dated and derogatory" remarks made by Fury and has revealed he has held talks with the BBC over appearing at the event.
"I have been in discussions with the BBC regarding my involvement with SPOTY after hearing what I believe to be very out-dated and derogatory comments from a fellow SPOTY nominee," a statement from the world record holder read. "Everybody has the right to freedom of speech, which is something that we as a society have struggled with and fought for generations to get to where we are now, but by the nature of these comments, undermine the struggles that we have 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.
"The BBC have been hugely supportive in hearing my own views and I am hugely honoured and privileged to be included on the shortlist for such a prestigious event alongside so many remarkable sporting personalities, the majority of whom I will proudly say to my son I had the chance to meet."
Rutherford added on Twitter that he had demanded his name be removed from the voting, only to make a U-turn on the decision after consulting his family. "I have opinions, of which I was privately clear. I DID pull out of SPOTY, on Sunday I wrote to the BBC requesting removal," he wrote. "Throughout the next two days the SPOTY team asked me to stay on. Also, I realised my nomination meant so much to my family.
As the BBC comes under increasing pressure to remove Fury as one of the nominees for the award, the Sports Journalist Association has revoked its invitation to the 27-year-old to attend its annual awards on 17 December. Fury threatened Daily Mail journalist Oliver Holt after questioning the legitimacy of comments he made during an interview prior to his win over Klitschko.