By Jesse Thomas
Reaction to comments made by San Francisco 49ers cornerback Chris Culliver who said that he wouldn’t welcome a gay teammate in the dressing room continued Thursday.
Culliver was asked about the issue by Artie Lange a U.S. radio shock-jock. Lange asked Culliver if there were any gay players on his team.
“Naw, we don’t got no gay people on the team,” said Culliver. “They gotta get up outta here if they do.”
The comments come just days before the 49ers play the Baltimore Ravens at Super Bowl XLVII and just one day after former 49ers linebacker Kwame Harris was charged with assault for beating up his former boyfriend.
Culliver was quick to backpedal on his anti-gay comments Thursday in a written apology issued by the 49ers.
“The derogatory comments I made yesterday were a reflection of thoughts in my head, but they are not how I feel. 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 apology read.
Despite the negative story, Irene Miller president of Parents For Lesbian and Gay kids said it does bring the conversation forward.
‘This shows that (being gay) is still seen as not ok in sports,” said Miller. “There is still a mindset that gays are inferior and that athletes can shoot their mouths off and there are no repercussions.”
Culliver looks like he’ll get off scott-free from the comments, neither the NFL nor the 49ers have handed down a suspension for the derogatory comments.
“Homophobia can surprise you,” said PFLAG president “If he (Culliver) thought it was funny. I think he found out its not and this will be a learning experience for him.”
Miller said the social climate needs to change in the locker room and having straight players speak out is a way to change the culture.
Players like Minnesota punter Chris Kluwe and Baltimore Ravens linebacker Brandon Ayanbadejo have been outspoken in their support for for same sex marriage and have written Emmett C. Burns Jr., a Maryland state delegate who opposes gay marriage.
Patrick Burke, whose late brother Brendan was openly gay, is the co-founder of You Can Play, an organization that promotes openness, respect and and opportunity for gay athletes, feels that the positive steps don’t get enough attention in the media.
Burke said, Culliver is part of the minority and points to a Sports Illustrated poll that shows nearly 75 per cent of the NFL players would support an openly gay teammate.
“That poll was done seven years ago,” said Burke in radio interview with KQED FM in San Francisco today.
“In the realm of men’s sports, we are fighting two stereotypes,” said Burke. “One, that there are no gay athletes and the other, that all straight athletes are idiot jocks who want to throw people in the lockers.”
Burke said we need to find a way to give straight athletes a way to speak up and show they’re an ally of gay teammates and remove the stigma and allow athletes to come out.
“There obviously is hiding. We don’t have any openly gay athlete in the four major sports,” he said. “I think the leagues have to do a better job of educating the athletes.”
Humber athletics director Doug Fox said it would be difficult for a pro-football player to come out and go about their daily routine.
“I don’t think you have had one gay athlete in the pro-ranks (NFL) come out while playing,” said Fox. “I don’t know how to explain that besides it being a culture of that sport.”
Fox believes people and students at the college level are a little more open than their professional counterparts.
“The students let people live their lives and don’t make judgments,” said Fox. “We’ve have a very excepting environment here and we have a number of gay athletes on our teams.”
Fox said the athletics department speaks to their athletes about character and expectations but not specifically about homophobia.
“We don’t address it (homophobia) specifically here because we don’t have to,” said Fox. “Its just not accepted here.”