The build up to a Super Bowl is typically dominated by players and coaches getting excited about one of the biggest days in the sporting calendar, as the San Francisco 49ers and the Baltimore Ravens prepare to face off in New Orleans’ storied Superdome. But the NFL may not best pleased by some of the main headlines out of the Big Easy this week — particularly statements by 49ers cornerback Chris Culliver, who told an interviewer this week that gay players wouldn’t be welcome on his team.
“I don’t do the gay guys man,” said Culliver. “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.”
Team management immediately distanced themselves from Culliver’s controversial comments, releasing a statement Wednesday. “The San Francisco 49ers reject the comments that were made yesterday, and have addressed the matter with Chris,” the statement read. “There is no place for discrimination within our organization at any level. We have and always will proudly support the LGBT community.”
There was an unfortunate irony in Culliver’s outburst, considering that the team he plays for became the first NFL team to formally support the It Gets Better Project, the anti-bullying campaign that creates support networks for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender teenagers. Team members appeared in one of the group’s signature videos, which has received more than 100,000 views on YouTube.
For his part, Culliver issued his own statement of apology via the team office late Wednesday:
“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.”
Culliver’s interview was with radio host Artie Lange during Tuesday’s Media Day, but it gained traction after being picked up by Yahoo Sports. Culliver’s teammate, tight end Delanie Walker, had a different take on the subject when discussing the news that a former 49er, offensive tackle Kwame Harris, had been charged with assaulting his ex-boyfriend (thus revealing his sexuality). “I don’t think so, not at all,” he said when asked if Harris would have been treated differently had he come out earlier. “That’s him. If that’s what he’s into, that’s what he’s into. I can’t judge a person for how he feels.”