Leading up to an historic Super Bowl matchup pitting brother against brother as Jim Harbaugh, San Francisco 49ers head coach, and John Harbaugh, Baltimore Ravens head coach, met on the field, for the second time in as little as four months–this time for the game to win all season games–the most contensious issue was not about football or sibling rivalry but LGBT issues in pro-sports.
Days before Super Bowl XLVII San Francisco 49er Chris Culliver opened his mouth and ignited a maelstrom of controversy for his team and the National Football League as they headed to the Super Bowl. Culliver denounced gays in football, in professional sports actually…
“I don’t do the gay guys man,” Culliver said. “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.”
The cornerback went on to say that gays would not be welcomed in the locker room, but if they remained closeted, he might be all right with them playing.
“Yeah, come out 10 years later,” he said.
Funny that these words came from a member of a team that was the first in professional sports to lend their voice to the “It Gets Better” campaign by filming a video in early 2012. It should be noted that the video has been pulled from the “It Gets Better” campaign site and YouTube channel as of February 1.
Campaign co-founder Dan Savage made the decision to pull the video after 49ers linebacker Ahmad Brooks and tackle Isaac Sopoaga strangely denied their involvement with “It Gets Better” when asked about it by Kevin Manahan of USA Today. After being shown the video, the players then claimed ignorance of the ad’s intentions and refused comment.
So, where do they go from here?
While 24 year old Culliver issued an apology prior to the NFL Championship Game, the 49ers went into the Super Bowl a team tarnished and somewhat lacking of the support of a large proportion of their home trumpeters in the San Francisco Bay Area and beyond–the LGBT population. Maybe while in our hearts we cheered for a win for our “home” team (I lived in San Francisco for 6 years) the sadness of defeat truly rested heavy in many hearts knowing that support for the LGBT community demonstrated by the 49ers may not have been as genuine as first believed.
It seems the winning Ravens didn’t realize it but their silence when 36 year old linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo first spoke up about LGBT issues may have sealed their fate with positive Karma–did the team acquiesce knowing that this issue would become bigger and not a topic they wanted to challenge? Whatever action or inaction that came from the Ravens seems to have been in their favor.
Watch this post-Super Bowl interview with Ayanbadejo where he notes Chris Culliver has likely learned his lesson and that while professional supports may not be ready for a gay player to come out it will take a Jackie Robinson like figure to come out during a professional carrer to potentially shift the paradigm in this particular arena.
Kudos to Brendon and if you haven’t seen his Mariage Equality video check it out here.
I still believe F.I.F.E: Football Is For Everyone and someday I hope the players in the league will truly believe that as well.