BBC Spoty chaos: Greg Rutherford to take on Tyson Fury after all, as he backtracks on quitting awards
Olympic star Greg Rutherford has admitted he pulled out of the Sports Personality of the Year awards after Tyson Fury was added to the awards shortlist - but changed his mind after the BBC begged him to come back.
The 2012 Olympic gold medallist said he withdrew his name from the star-studded ceremony set to take place at Belfast's SSE Arena on Sunday after the new world heavyweight champion made controversial remarks about homosexuality and paedophilia.
He referred to Fury as a bigot - but the boxer hit back with a taunt on Twitter: "All this talk of Greg Rutherford: who is he exactly?"
The Belfast Telegraph revealed yesterday that the BBC was in chaos after long-jumper Rutherford had warned the broadcaster that he could walk away.
In a day of dramatic developments, Rutherford released a statement at 3.10pm yesterday, revealing that he had been in crisis talks with BBC executives.
He said he told them he was unhappy with the "outdated and derogatory comments from a fellow SPOTY nominee" and had reservations about "sharing a stage with somebody that had views that are so strongly against my own".
It was feared that his absence would cause a domino effect, with other nominees pulling out and throwing the glittering annual TV awards ceremony into doubt.
His agent added that "he would not be making any further comments on the matter at present".
But shortly after at 4.30pm, Rutherford took to Twitter to revise his statement - and revealed he had indeed quit the competition before he was convinced by the BBC to stay on.
"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 said.
"Throughout the next two 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." He explained that he had hoped to avoid public attention over the matter.
"Next thing I know, someone leaks my withdrawal request and the private decision I've made suddenly changes to something much bigger.
"So, I will still attend SPOTY, to make my family proud and to thank them for the support in my career, and that's what I plan to do."
In a final, tweet he joked: "AND, I'm mega keen to meet Tyson Fury's riveting, personality-filled little toe."
Tyson had previously boasted that he had more personality in his little toe than the other 11 contenders for the SPOTY award.
Despite the negative media reaction Fury is convinced he will walk away with the award.
"I'm going to win this year! Good always defeats evil," he said, urging fans to "Vote Tyson Fury for BBC SPOTY - started from the bottom now I'm here on top of the world. Britain's biggest personality."
Yesterday morning he also tweeted: "The end is near repent of your sins, Remember what the Bible says!"
The awards have been at the centre of controversy ever since Fury was added to the shortlist, with critics pointing to his unedifying comments about homosexuality, abortion and women.
Fury said in a BBC Radio 2 interview this week: ''Homosexuality, abortion and paedophilia - them three things need to be accomplished before the world finishes. That's what the Bible tells me.''
A petition on the website change.org calling for Fury to be excluded from the competition has now attracted over 127,000 signatures. It's expected that the BBC director general Tony Hall will be questioned by the culture, media and sport select committee about Fury's nomination.
Rutherford received his SPOTY nomination after winning gold at the World Championships earlier this year. A BBC spokesman said: "We're delighted that Greg will be joining us in Belfast for BBC Sports Personality of the Year to celebrate his outstanding sporting achievements during 2015."
The BBC also said Fury's inclusion on the shortlist recognised his sporting achievement. "It is not about endorsing his personal views," a spokesman said.
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.