On rooting for nobody in the Superbowl


You’re cute now, but if you turn out to be gay a 49er won’t want to play with you.

REALLY, 49ers? REALLY?? 

On Tuesday night, San Francisco 49ers player Chris Culliver told radio host Artie Lange that he wouldn’t want a gay man on his team. When Lange asked if he knew of any gay players on the Niners, Culliver replied, “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.” (For what it’s worth, shock jock Lange — a former Howard Stern sidekick — defended gays as he played the clip and sympathized with both out and closeted athletes. “I really feel terrible for gay guys who can’t come out of the closet…it’s gotta be torture for you every day,” he said.) Strangely, though every hour of the show is archived on Lange’s web site, the hour in which the interview took place — the first hour of the January 29th show — is missing. A kind Facebook friend sent me the full podcast, which I listened to.

The team organization released a statement saying, “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.” On Wednesday, Culliver issued an apology:

“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.

Let’s parse! As we’ve discussed before, it’s not enough to apologize to those you have hurt and offended; you need to apologize to everyone — gay and straight, whether they were offended or not, because your words were offensive. And the pledge to “learn and grow from this experience” seems pretty empty if those remarks “are not how I feel.” What is there to learn, then? To keep your mouth shut? Finally, that rhetorical gulf between “thoughts in my head” and “how I feel” is fascinating. Perhaps we can look forward to SAT-cheaters saying, “The actions of my pencil yesterday were a reflection of the thoughts in my head, but they are not how I feel about cheating,” or thieves saying, “The pilfered diamonds in my pocket are a reflection of the thoughts in my head, but they are not how I feel about burglary.”

(All this said, I’m willing to cut Culliver a break on the seemingly most inflammatory part of the interview. Though most media outlets are reporting that he said, “I don’t do the gay guys man — I don’t do that,” I think that quote is being taken out of context. If you actually listen to the interview, rather than playing round-robin with printed quotations from it — admittedly difficult, since the recording is not on Lange’s web site now — Lange had just asked Culliver about how many white girls he was going to bang over the weekend. Then he asked how Culliver does with the ladies. Then he said, “How about gay guys? Are there any gay guys on the team?” Culliver took the question as a continuation of the first two lines of inquiry: Banging white girls and how he does with the ladies. So when he replied that he “doesn’t do” gay guys, he was speaking literally. He meant he doesn’t bang them, to use Mr Lange’s charming terminology.)

Still, Culliver’s apology fell short. And when he re-apologized yesterday afternoon, he added only, “I’m sorry that I made a comment and that hurt anyone, that I made a comment that might affect anyone in the organization, NFL, or anything like that.” RE-APOLOGY FAIL.

Given that the Niners — who, uh, are SAN FRANCISCO’s team, so saying you’re against LGBT people is about as clever as saying you’re against gorgeous bridges or sourdough or harbor seals — were the first team to make an “It Gets Better” video, Culliver’s homophobia seems particularly egregious.

Except not so much. Because two of the four guys who made the video denied making the video. When a USA TODAY sports reporter finally showed Ahmad Brooks and Isaac Sopoaga the video (THE VIDEO THAT THEY MADE) on his iPhone, Brooks told him, “That was an anti-bullying video, not a gay video.” Sopoaga also said he had no idea he’d made an LGBT-positive video. All righty then! Yesterday It Gets Better project founder Dan Savage tweeted that the site was taking down the 49ers video.


Now, before we all throw our Superbowl support behind the Baltimore Ravens, let’s recall that the team’s QB, Joe Flacco, on Tuesday called the notion of holding the Superbowl in a cold-weather place like New York “retarded.” Veyizmir. Granted, Flacco seemed to realize he’d erred as soon as the words were out of his mouth, immediately adding, “I probably shouldn’t say that. I think it’s stupid.” He issued a statement later that day saying, “Obviously it was a bad choice of words. I wish I hadn’t said it. I have a great relationship with Special Olympics back in Baltimore and have had one for many years. I didn’t mean to offend anybody, but I definitely apologize for that.”

Again, no soup:

1. The word “obviously” does not belong in an apology.

2. We don’t care what you wish. We care what you say and do.

3. It doesn’t matter what you mean. It matters what you said.

4. Don’t apologize for offending “anybody”; apologize for your douchery.

5. As we keep saying, a good apology tells the listener you understand your offense and you intend to make reparations. So, Joe, tell us how you know people with special needs or intellectual disabilities and their families don’t deserve to be slapped upside the head by your use of an antiquated word that is today always regarded as a slur and always meant negatively by those who use it. (“I volunteer with the Special Olympics” is the athlete’s version of “Some of my best friends are black.”) And tell us how you’re going to make up for your dumb talk — maybe a donation to the Special Olympics, or better yet, a an organization that works on finding the most effective educational approaches for kids with autism or treats poor kids with cerebral palsy or, I dunno, YOU DO THE WORK! Figure out what interests you, who you can learn from and how you can help most.

Yes, we still have adorable LGBT advocate Brendon Ayanbadejo of the Ravens saying that when he hears players using gay slurs, “I let them know it’s not acceptable to say those words. And if you replace gay for dumb or dumb for gay, then that’s really derogatory and that hurts people. I let them know and sometimes they understand.” Brendon wouldn’t say “retard,” either. “It’s not just ‘gay,'” he told the Baltimore Sun. “There are so many words that are not politically correct; it’s not acceptable and it hurts people.”


I apologize for objectifying Brendon. But CAN YOU BLAME ME?

So on balance, go Ravens.




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One Response to On rooting for nobody in the Superbowl

  1. Ellen S. says:

    TOUCHE, as usual. And, argh. These apologies are so empty.

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