This article is the opinion of contributor Ryan Marple
It has been a week since offensive remarks were made by San Francisco CB Chris Culliver at Media Day. For those of you who didn't hear the quotes, Culliver was asked if he would welcome a gay teammate. His response, "I don't do the gay guys. I don't do that. We don't have any gay guys on the team. They gotta get up outta here if they do. Can't be with that sweet stuff. Yeah, come out 10 years later after that,” Culliver said.
I, like most, find these comments completely unacceptable. Since these statements, the 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh and Culliver himself have since come out to “clarify” his original statement, Unfortunately, the clarifications were almost as hilariously bad as the original! Culliver’s apology was a joke, and the way he conducted himself in the apologetic press conference gave me no reason to believe him.
What he specifically said was, “"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." He also said he thinks he was baited into making a controversial statement. Way to take responsibility, man.
So let me get this straight; those were thoughts in your head, but not in your heart? And that's supposed to be a genuine apology? How can we, the public, buy that he is sincere? The “apology” was clearly forced from upper management and his head coach, and it's clear to me he didn't clearly grasp what he did wrong. It reminded me of my childhood when my parents would force me to say “I'm sorry” to my brothers, but all parties involved really knew I wasn't sorry.
One of the things that make Culliver's statement so horrendous is the fact he plays in San Francisco, which is the informal “gay capital” of the United States of America. San Francisco has been on the forefront of gay rights advocacy since Harvey Milk in the 1970s. Now a player for the team in that very same city is coming out publicly, on the biggest media day in sports, and expressing his intolerance? Unacceptable.
Since Culliver's original remarks, there have been many current and former NFL players coming out and showing their support for gay people, and trying to distance themselves from Culliver. Jon Ryan, punter for the Seahawks, wrote on his twitter, “If Chris Culliver isn't suspended by Goodell then I am absolutely embarrassed to be part of a league that accepts this type of behavior.”
Ronnie Lott has also spoken up against Culliver, referring to Obama's inauguration speech saying, “"Everything [Obama] mentioned in that speech I stand for– inviting gays and inviting people of color, inviting all of us to understand what we're doing right now, is the right thing.” So, just a handful of days after President Obama came out saying how “…our gay brothers and sisters have to be treated like anyone else under the law”, a player from San Francisco comes out (no pun intended) and publicly insults the gay community on the country's biggest stage: The Super Bowl. Poor timing, Mr. Culliver, and very poor judgement on your part.
It is 2013, and there are gay activists all over, including NFL players Chris Kluwe, Brendon Ayanbadejo, both of whom have been publicly promoting gay rights for a while, hoping this week would be a great platform to promote gay rights.
Statements are also being made in large communities. For example, in the city of Boston, where the mayor banned Chick-Fil-A from opening a restaurant in the city, because Chick-Fil-A's financial contributions to anti-gay organizations. The country is stepping up and moving with the tide, so why are there still NFL players publicly saying such prejudicial and ignorant statements?
That sort of intolerance shouldn't be acceptable to his teammates nor his team although there doesn't appear to be any indication that the league is going to take any specific action and Culliver was not suspended by his team, playing in the Super Bowl.
Yes, Chris Culliver is a good NFL player, one of the best dime cornerbacks in the NFL. But what does having this guy on your team say about your organization as a whole? If he's not suspended, the 49ers are basically supporting him, and the NFL is, too. Both are saying the game is more important than the LGBT population offended by Chris Culliver.
It could also cause fractioning of the locker room, a negative public image, and most of all, it's created a huge distraction for his team. The week leading up to the Super Bowl is supposed to be about your TEAM, and brushing off as many distractions as possible, avoiding giving your opponent “bulletin material” and being an ambassador of the sport, and more importantly, your team and city.
All his comments did was bring on unnecessary scrutiny to his team days before the biggest game of their lives. The distraction and embarrassment he's brought upon himself, his teammates, his coach, his organization, his city, and his league warranted a suspension from the biggest game of them all.
I wouldn't welcome this kind of player on my team, and I don't think there is a place for this bigotry in the league. Period. Dennis Allen and Reggie McKenzie are trying to distance themselves from players like Rolando McClain and build the team with guys high in character, with a good sense of “team”. Chris Culliver is a perfect example of a player who shouldn't be welcomed onto the Silver and Black.
For those of you who would like to see the actual video footage of the events mentioned, you can go here and judge for yourself if he was being genuine in his “apology”.
Ryan Marple is on Twitter @RaiderRyan24