49er Backtracks on Anti-Gay Remarks
Just days after a former San Francisco 49ers football player was outed and days before the Super Bowl, a current athlete for the California team made national headlines for saying he couldn't accept an openly gay teammate.
According to Yahoo Sports, 49ers' cornerback Chris Culliver reportedly made anti-gay comments during an interview with radio host Artie Lange. In the interview, Culliver says that he could not be on the same team with someone who is gay.
"I don't do the gay guys man," said Culliver. "I don't do that. No, we don't got no gay people on the team, they gotta get up out of here if they do. Can't be with that sweet stuff. Nah...can't be...in the locker room man. Nah."
The 49ers will face the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday in the 2013 Super Bowl. Culliver will also play against Brendon Ayanbadejo, a linebacker for the Ravens who has been a major LGBT rights supporter and wants to use the Super Bowl as a platform to promote marriage equality.
Lange asked Culliver if gay athletes need to stay in the closet while playing professional football and the cornerback replied, "Yeah, come out 10 years later after that."
Culliver's comments come days after Kwame Harris, a former offensive tackler for the 49ers, made headlines for being involved in a bizarre incident with Dimitri Geier, Harris' former boyfriend, and was subsequently outed publicly. Harris allegedly beat Geier in a fight over pouring soy sauce over rice and borrowed (or stolen) underwear. Harris pleaded not guilty to charges of felony domestic violence and assault.
Culliver's remarks don't reflect everyone on the team. Soon after Harris' incident made its way around the Web, a few 49ers said they wouldn't have had a problem with Harris if he was out, USA Today reports.
"I don't think so, not at all," Delanie Walker, a tight end who played with Harris for two seasons, said. "It probably wouldn't affect me, but other guys might feel different."
Walker added that no one knew that Harris was gay when he was on the San Francisco team from 2003 to 2007.
"I wouldn't assume that anybody who's gay that played on the team," Walker said. "That's him. If that's what he's into, that's what he's into. I can't judge a person for how he feels. Things happen. He was a great player. I don't see him no differently."
Brian Jennings, a longer snapper for the 49ers, acknowledged that everyone is different and said, "We're all there for the common purpose of winning football games. I don't know if it mattered or if anyone was aware of his sexual orientation."
Harris himself told a reporter for San Francisco's NBC affiliate , "It's surprising that in 2013 Chris Culliver would use his 15 minutes to spread vitriol and hate. I recognize that these are comments that he may come to regret and that he may come to see that gay people are not so different than straight people."
The Human Rights Campaign immediately responded to the 49ers' remarks with a strongly worded statement, which called Culliver's remarks "the height of ignorance and the type of homophobic banter that professional athletes rarely use anymore. Chris Culliver's irrational rant against LGBT people is reprehensible, and the fact that he is about to face off in the Super Bowl against Brendon Ayanbadejo - a steadfast ally for our community - only exacerbates how unacceptable his comments are. Culliver should recognize how far most of his fellow athletes have come on this issue and apologize immediately."
In fact, he did. It didn't take long for the 49ers' front office to go into full damage control. On Wednesday evening, The cornerback issued an apology.
"The derogatory comments I made yesterday were a reflection of thoughts in my head, but they are not how I feel," he said in a statement released by the team. "It has taken me seeing them in print to realize that they are hurtful and ugly. Those discriminating feelings are truly not in my heart. Further, I apologize to those who I have hurt and offended, and I pledge to learn and grow from this experience."
The team said Culliver would further address the remarks on Thursday morning at a media availability event.