Cornerback or Throwback? 49ers Player Culliver Strikes Out Against Gays

460px-49ers_Logo.svgI would expect that of all of the NFL teams to espouse homophobic views, the San Francisco 49ers would probably be the least receptive forum. That did not appear to deter 49ers cornerback Chris Culliver who raged against gays in the locker room just days before Super Bowl XLVII. In contrast, Ravens player Brendon Ayanbadejo has used the Superbowl to advocate the rights of same-sex couples. (Conversely, Ravens center Matt Birk came out opposing equal rights for gays in marriages). Suddenly, the Superbowl has become a debate on gay and lesbian rights.


Having a football celebrity like Ayanbadejo support gay rights is a significant boost for the movement given the macho image of NFL players. Moreover, the disagreement from players like Birk was not particularly surprising. However, San Francisco is viewed by many as the citadel of the gay rights movement, making the comments of Culliver more controversial.

The comments came in an interview with Shock jock Artie Lange. (Just a note, “interviews with Shock Jocks” is enough to send most NFL public relations people into a fetal position). In the interview, Culliver struggled with both the English language and equal rights: “I don’t do the gay guys man. 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.” When prompted by Lange, Culliver offered an olive branch — stay in the closet and come out in a decade: “Yeah, come out 10 years later after that.”

The most worrisome statement is “we don’t got no gay people on the team, they gotta get up out of here if they do. . . .” There was a time when football players said such hateful things about blacks and other minorities.

Now here is the question. All of these players are exercising free speech on both sides of an issue. Moreover, neither Culliver nor Birk have been accused of taking any action against gays or lesbians. San Francisco has the following protection for sexual orientation:

SEC. 3303. EMPLOYMENT.

(a) Prohibited Activity. It shall be unlawful for any person to do any of the following acts wholly or partially because of an employee’s, independent contractor’s or an applicant for employment’s actual or perceived race, color, ancestry, national origin, place of birth, sex, age, religion, creed, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity, weight or height:

(1) By an employer: To fail or refuse to hire, or to discharge any individual; to discriminate against any individual with respect to compensation, terms, conditions or privileges of employment, including promotion; or to limit, segregate or classify employees in any way which would deprive or tend to deprive any individual of employment opportunities, or otherwise adversely affect his/her status as an employee;

This addresses employers who are also subject to penalties for hostile workplaces. Can the 49ers limit such comments to protect against a hostile workplace as it would racist or sexist comments? Where do we draw the line between free speech and anti-discrimination?

I believe that players must be protected in sharing such comments, even when they are offensive. The line is crossed however when those comments are directed against particular individuals or used to create a hostile environment. The fact is that NFL players are celebrities and are often solicited for their views on public issues. I have never understood the hold of players like Culliver who can barely put together a complete sentence in espousing hateful thoughts. (By the way, the faculty at South Carolina may want to address how this individual graduated from their institution with such a limited hold on basic English). However, that is the celebrity driven society in which we live and those celebrities come in every model from the righteous to the wicked. Many of us defended Ayanbadejo when a state legislator wrote to the team to condemn his comments and views. These players are exercising the same free speech rights and they are doing so in their private time. The most that should happen is that the 49ers should state that such views are not those of the team — or most people in San Francisco.

As for the rest of us, a lot of people just switched over to the Ravens as the preferred team this Sunday.

You can listen to the interview below.

Source: Yahoo

22 thoughts on “Cornerback or Throwback? 49ers Player Culliver Strikes Out Against Gays

  1. I believe that players must be protected in sharing such comments, even when they are offensive. The line is crossed however when those comments are directed against particular individuals or used to create a hostile environment.”

    Not a bad policy IMO.

    The post of Mike S a while back about the military religion’s aficionados causing a hostile environment for atheist soldiers.

    Sort of uncanny how fundamentalist religion drives a lot of discrimination.

    Can the 49ers limit such comments to protect against a hostile workplace as it would racist or sexist comments? Where do we draw the line between free speech and anti-discrimination?

    In the case of the military it would be the Establishment Clause in the U.S. Constitituon, in the case of the 49ers football team it would be the SEC. 3303. EMPLOYMENT law.

  2. If he had espoused a “progressive” viewpoint, and a conservative blogger were harshly disparaging his vernacular instead of merely criticizing the content of his statement, I suspect many in the community here would be pointing out the (not so) subtle racism.

  3. Josh, you’re right. These guys are hired to main and destroy the other team. Any expectation that they might be expected to reflect respect as a byproduct of their own good fortune would be an unreasonable restraint on their freedom.

    For myself, the criticism of the use of the vernacular, in a public way, has less to do with racism than contempt for a system of “education” that is a steppingstone to a privileged financial life.

    I’m only being a little snarky.

  4. @ rafflaw “Equal rights means Equal Rights.” That’s one of the things that really gets me. I know prejudice comes in all shapes and sizes, and wh’re all ‘guilty’ to some extent, but you would think most ‘minority’ athletes somewhere along the way would have been exposed to civil rights 101. Not to say it would have substantively shaped their world view, but at least their good sense not to piss on all those who came before and made it possible to succeed. Homophobia in the black community runs pretty deep however. This is a prime example.

  5. “I would expect that of all of the NFL teams to espouse homophobic views, the San Francisco 49ers would probably be the least receptive forum.”

    As JT stated, this too was my first thought about Mr. Culliver’s stupid statement.
    What was he thinking? His retraction the next day was probably pressured by both the 49’ers who denounced it and by his management team. I suspect that his views are more common than admitted in the NFL, which not only is an ultra macho environment, but has many players who are Christian fundamentalists. Sadly, while we all know that there have been many prominent athletes who are gay, the sports world has not caught up to the real world.

  6. “but you would think most ‘minority’ athletes somewhere along the way would have been exposed to civil rights 101. Not to say it would have substantively shaped their world view, but at least their good sense not to piss on all those who came before and made it possible to succeed. Homophobia in the black community runs pretty deep however.”

    DonS,

    One of the insights that I’ve gained through the years, is that people who are oppressed are not made “noble” by their oppression and could just as likely oppress others. While I am old enough to have seen him play, Jackie Robinson is just a brief memory today to baseball players. While lip service is paid to his integration of baseball, the depth of his sacrifices and contributions is lost in a hagiography that forgets the real man. We are in an era where historical realities have become superficial heroic mythology and nowhere is that more evident than in professional sports.

  7. “the sports world has not caught up to the real world.” (Mike).

    I’m afraid the real world hasn’t caught up with the real world!

  8. Some sound more homophobic than heterophobic. If they would stay out of the cathouses in New Orleans before the game the bookies might get it right. If they go in after the game the hookers will get it. If the gay players go to the femaile hookers they might get the Hail Mary. If they go to the Sunday service and confess they will get the boot. Better that they hold the SuperBowl in some place like Vegas where if it plays it stays. Not that the bookies care one bit if the quarterback is gay as long as he does not stray.
    The odds are on the 49ers but I am betting on the Ravens. I have an insider info that the winner will have a coach with last name Hanover or some such so I have to confirm which team his is on. Concentrate on the game boys. Not your toys.

  9. You have to wonder how many millions of dollars a year in pay would be enough to keep one’s trap shut; especially for making statements such as this?

  10. Just to be fair, it doesn’t take a “homophobe” to have a problem with showering with homosexuals. No doubt female athletes would prefer that men didn’t shower with them.

    Not condoning his statement. Just pointing out what should be obvious. That there are multiple reasons why someone might not want to be naked in front of a person who finds them sexually attractive.

  11. Nothing like a long-oppressed person/people to turn against a minority once they feel less oppressed. His apology is a big lie and he shouldn’t have bothered; just makes it worse. For those who don’t know: the Bay Area has its share of bigots, racists, sexists…. Having lived here for 31 years, I can attest to that. I would root for the opposing team if it weren’t that I believe there are plenty on that team who espouse similar homophobia. I’ll skip it all together. There will be a rise in domestic violence, result of too much drinking and men whose testosterone levels will be up. When I lived in Belgium, the uptick in domestic violence every time there was a major game was so predictable that the government and media would send out information on how to stay safe to women. Viagra and Cialis will also see an uptick, in its sales after the game. Enjoy!

  12. Sorry for a mangled sentence in my previous post. Let me try to rewrite it: The Belgian government, through the media, would warn against domestic violence prior to major soccer games. The warnings were not just aimed at women but I remember seeing a list of numbers on TV for women to call if they suffered from violence against them.
    Okay, hope that sounds a bit better. English is my fourth language. One day soon I may sound like a native, at least on paper/screen?

  13. Bernard, your post doesn’t make any sense to me. Are you afraid of showering with other people? Did you get attacked by a gay man in a shower at one point? I don’t know what you are trying to say, so please indulge and explain it to me. If I have extra time later today I may read further comments. It’s more likely I won’t.

  14. “That there are multiple reasons why someone might not want to be naked in front of a person who finds them sexually attractive.”

    Bernard,

    As Elsie DL asked, perhaps you could elaborate on your statement above. So what if someone finds me sexually attractive? I actually I know I would be flattered by it, as I have in the past when it has occurred.

  15. “Anybody can play football — even louts.” – mespo

    Don’t you mean “especially” instead of “even”? Just a suggestion.

    What cracks me up is that if statistics hold with the general population (and in the case of sexual orientation I don’t see why they wouldn’t), these guys have been getting naked with at least a couple of homosexuals since the day they first started playing football. I never thought I’d say this, but these homophobic clowns could learn a thing or two from Charles Barkley who said, “First of all, every player has played with gay guys. It bothers me when I hear these reporters and jocks get on TV and say, ‘Oh, no guy can come out in a team sport. These guys would go crazy.’ First of all, quit telling me what I think. I’d rather have a gay guy who can play than a straight guy who can’t play.”

    That’s the bottom line, knuckle draggers. Who your team mate sleeps with is none of your damn business. Can they play? That’s the only question that matters.

  16. ” In contrast, Ravens player Brendon Ayanbadejo has used the Superbowl to advocate the rights of same-sex couples.”

    This is an active link in Professors Turleys article above. It is refreshing to see a current football player willing to support gay rights.

    The more genuine people that stand up for genuine rights….. The more irrational the deniers speech and “facts” become.
    For example, see the Republican platform in this most recent election.

  17. “I would expect that of all of the NFL teams to espouse homophobic views…”

    It’s still laughable to see such a word “homophobe” used to stereotype an individual with differing views on sexual disorientation. The word homophobe implies an emotion of fear, but of the general consensus regarding homosexuality, the emotion is not of any fear, but of disgust. The word is only used to stereotype, pigeon-hole, and/or bully people that have differing views on this subject.

    The word is a useless, meaningless cliche, whose only purpose in life is to bring someone down or discriminate based on their views.

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