The recent arrest of former San Francisco 49ers offensive tackle Kwame Harris for alleged domestic assault against his ex-boyfriend raised an interesting question during this Super Bowl week. How would an openly gay NFL player be accepted in the locker room?
"I don't do the gay guys. I don't do that," Culliver told Artie Lange on his radio show Tuesday, via Yahoo! Sports, when asked if a gay teammate would be welcomed.
Culliver was asked if there were any gay players on the 49ers.
"We don't have any gay guys on the team," Culliver said. "They gotta get up outta here if they do. Can't be with that sweet stuff."
If a player was gay, Culliver suggested the player should keep that fact to himself.
"Yeah, come out 10 years later after that," Culliver said.
The 49ers weren't amused. They quickly released a statement Wednesday afternoon: "The San Francisco 49ers reject the comments that were made yesterday, and have addressed the matter with Chris. There is no place for discrimination within our organization at any level. We have and always will proudly support the LGBT community."
Culliver will take deserved criticism for his remarks, but the honest comments hardly should come as a surprise. Homophobia runs rampant in professional sports; Culliver is just less guarded about his actual feelings than some players. I suspect those feelings won't change until years after a gay player has the courage to come out with his sexuality in public. More than 65 years after Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier, unfortunately it's difficult to imagine a player coming out of the closet.
Of course, not all players agree with Culliver. Baltimore Ravens linebacker Brendan Ayanbadejo has spent part of his Super Bowl week promoting gay rights and equality. Culliver's comments are a reminder that Ayanbadejo and other gay rights activists have a long way to go.
UPDATE: Culliver released a statement late Wednesday apologizing for his comments.
"The derogatory comments I made yesterday were a reflection of thoughts in my head, but they are not how I feel," the statement reads.
"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."
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