Gift of the 'gaffe'

Athletes often have to go on the offensive in their line of work, but some have offended off the field as well. The Straits Times looks at five gaffes committed by athletes.

FLOYD MAYWEATHER

The boxer has hit out at long-time rival Manny Pacquiao for his controversial comments about gay couples, yet the American himself was guilty of a profanity-filled racist and homophobic Internet rant against the Filipino in 2010.

"I'm on vacation for about a year," Mayweather said. "As soon as we come off vacation, we're going to cook that little yellow chump. We ain't worried about that. So they ain't gotta worry about me fighting the midget. Once I kick the midget a**, I don't want you all to jump on my ****. So you all better get on the bandwagon now... Once I stomp the midget, I'll make that ************ make me a sushi roll and cook me some rice."

Mayweather was blasted by angry fans for the outburst and eventually forced to apologise.

VOULA PAPACHRISTOU

The Greek triple jumper Voula Papachristou was kicked out of the 2012 London Olympics for a racist tweet which poked fun at Africans living in the country.

The then-23-year-old athlete had written that "with so many Africans in Greece, at least the mosquitoes of West Nile will eat homemade food".

She later apologised for what she said was "an unfortunate and tasteless joke".

MICHEL MORGANELLA

Papachristou was not the only athlete to receive her marching orders at the London Games.

Swiss footballer Morganella was also expelled for a tweet he wrote following his team's 1-2 defeat to South Korea.

His message, when translated to English, read: "I want to beat up all South Koreans! Bunch of mentally handicapped retards!"

He accepted the decision and apologised for his behaviour.

SERGIO GARCIA

In 2013, the Spanish golfer sparked a racist row when he was questioned on stage at the annual European Tour dinner.

Asked if he would have 14-time Major champion Tiger Woods over for dinner before June's US Open, Garcia said: "We will have him around every night. We will serve fried chicken."

Fried chicken is stereotypically associated with black people in the American deep south.

Garcia's sponsors threatened to dump him, with his biggest sponsor, TaylorMade, issuing a strongly-worded statement criticising the Spaniard.

Garcia later apologised in a statement and at a news conference. He also left a handwritten note of apology in Woods' locker at the US Open at Merion.

SHAQUILLE O'NEAL

In 2002, then-Los Angeles Lakers centre O'Neal was on The Best Damned Sports Show when he appeared to taunt Chinese basketball star Yao Ming and mock the Chinese language.

"Tell Yao Ming, ching-chong-yang-wah-ah-soh,"he said of the former Houston Rockets centre.

O'Neal later said that he was joking and "if I offended anybody, I apologise".

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 19, 2016, with the headline 'Gift of the 'gaffe''. Print Edition | Subscribe