Chris Culliver expressed his true feelings on a social issue that effects millions of people around the world: He doesn't like gay men, and he can't stand the thought of having a gay teammate in the locker room.
He told radio host Artie Lange, via Yahoo! Sports Martin Rogers:
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.
Culliver has since issued a statement, offering an apology for his cruel words, saying, via MercuryNews.com:
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.
Unfortunately, the damage had already been done.
The NFL has a real problem on its hands, because Culliver is certainly far from the only NFL player with homophobic views.
Brendon Ayanbadejo, linebacker for the Baltimore Ravens, has been a long-time advocate for gay marriage. After Culliver's comments, Ayanbadejo talked to reporters, via CBS Sports' Josh Katzowitz:
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I'd say 50 percent of [NFL players] think like Culliver, 25 percent of the people think like me, 25 percent don't necessarily agree with all the things I agree with but they're accepting. It's a fight. It's an uphill battle. But we went from 95 percent who think like Culliver, so we're winning the fight.
He also went on to say that, "Culliver is going to turn it around and hopefully have the chance and opportunity to do that.”
Unfortunately, I tend to think that Ayanbadejo's "50 percent" remark is a bit generous. The culture in NFL locker rooms is one of machismo and doesn't leave any room for what some, like Culliver, consider to be less-than-manly.
Interestingly enough, Ayanbadejo's teammate, center Matt Birk, strongly opposes gay marriage and has been just as outspoken about his stance on the issue as Ayanbadejo has been.
But the two of them get along just fine, and there are no hard feelings about the disagreement.
Via Katzowitz's report, Birk said:
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Obviously on the issue of marriage we couldn't be further apart, but he's my teammate and I respect him. I've known him since before he was my teammate and continue to respect him. I just think he's wrong, and I'll just kind of leave it at that.
I have gay people in my life -- gay people in my life that I love. If you're asking me if I would accept a gay teammate: yeah, absolutely. It would be really not that big of an issue to me personally.
Birk's take on the whole thing is admirable.
America was founded on the belief that men were created equal, no matter their religious views, their political loyalties or their sexual preferences. We have a life where we can disagree without rancor. People are people, no matter what they believe.
It doesn't matter if you are a staunch Christian who believes that it is a sin to be gay, you need to love and respect your peers.
The fact is that hate is still prevalent in our culture and in the NFL.
Something needs to happen to get this ship turned around.
I'm not advocating that the league start holding classes about why gay marriage should be legal. That's a topic for lawyers and courtrooms.
Will NFL locker rooms ever be a place where gay men can be open with their sexuality, or will things continue to be the same?
What I do support is a league-wide effort that targets the thought process that somehow being gay makes someone less of a person. If a man is good at football, it shouldn't matter if he's gay, straight or anything in between.
Teammates need to support one another, no matter their sexual preference.
The fact that being gay is still a taboo subject in NFL locker rooms means that there is still a huge rift in the NFL community over this subject, and that's not cool.
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