Sports

Kansas City Chiefs player faces backlash for graduation speech criticizing working women, calling Pride a 'deadly sin'

Harrison Butker speaks to the 2024 graduates of Benedictine College, May 11, 2024, in Atchison, Kan. (Benedictine College/YouTube)

(NEW YORK) — The kicker for the Kansas City Chiefs is facing backlash after delivering a commencement address that touched on everything from Pride Month to women’s roles in the home, abortion and in vitro fertilization.

“It is safe to say that over the years, I have gained quite the reputation for speaking my mind,” Harrison Butker said at the start of his address, which he delivered May 11 at Benedictine College, a Catholic liberal arts college in Atchison, Kansas.

Butker, who has sparked controversy in the past for his public stances on religion, LGBTQ topics and abortion, criticized President Joe Biden for his stance as a Catholic who supports abortion rights before turning to speak directly to the women in the graduating class, saying they had been told “the most diabolical lies.”

“Some of you may go on to lead successful careers in the world, but I would venture to guess that the majority of you are most excited about your marriage and the children you will bring into this world,” Butker, 28, said. “I can tell you that my beautiful wife Isabelle would be the first to say that her life truly started when she began living her vocation as a wife and a mother.”

Butker and his wife share two young children. Isabelle Butker has spoken publicly about converting to Catholicism before the couple’s 2018 marriage.

“I’m on this stage today and able to be the man I am because I have a wife who leans into her vocation,” Butker continued. “I am beyond blessed with the many talents God has given me, but it cannot be overstated that all of my success is made possible because a girl I met in band class, back in middle school, would convert to the faith, become my wife and embrace one of the most important titles of all, homemaker.”

Butker added, “I’ve seen firsthand how much happier someone can be when they disregard the outside noise and move closer and closer to God’s will for life. Isabelle’s dream of having a career might not have come true, but if you ask her today if she has any regrets on her decision, she would laugh out loud without hesitation and say no.”

The football player also said men should step up for families, saying, “This absence of men in the home is what plays a large role in the violence we see all around the nation.”

“Be unapologetic in your masculinity, fighting against the culture of the emasculation of men,” he said, adding that men “set the tone of the culture.”

“Do hard things,” he added. “Never settle for what is easy.”

Elsewhere in his 20-minute speech, Butker described Pride month, which typically falls in June and is dedicated to supporting the LGBTQ+ community, as a “deadly sin.”

He also referenced popstar Taylor Swift, who is dating his teammate Travis Kelce, by citing some of the lyrics from her song “Bejeweled.”

“Tragically, so many priests revolve much of their happiness from the adulation they receive from their parishioners,” he said. “And in searching for this, they let their guard down and become overly familiar. This undue familiarity will prove to be problematic every time, because as my teammate’s girlfriend says, familiarity breeds contempt.”

ABC News has reached out to Butker for comment.

Justice Horn, a former Kansas City commissioner, spoke out in the wake of Butker’s comments over the weekend, writing on X, “Harrison Butker doesn’t represent Kansas City nor has he ever. Kansas City has always been a place that welcomes, affirms, and embraces our LGBTQ+ community members.”

Outsports, a media platform that covers the LGBTQ+ community, commented on the fact that Butker included a reference to Swift in his speech, writing on X, “One of the worst parts of this NFL player’s awful speech is that he quoted a Taylor Swift song before telling women they should be homemakers and serve their man’s career.”

Sarah Kate Ellis, president and CEO of GLAAD, an LGBTQ+ organization, also responded to Butker’s speech, calling it “inaccurate, ill-informed, and woefully out of step with Americans about Pride, LGBTQ people and women.”

“Those with expansive platforms, especially athletes, should use their voices to uplift and expand understanding and acceptance in the world,” Ellis said in a statement. “Instead, Butker’s remarks undermine experiences not of his own and reveal him to be one who goes against his own team’s commitment to the Kansas City community, and the NFL’s standards for respect, inclusion, and diversity across the League.”

Benedictine College, which has around 2,100 undergraduate students, has disabled comments on a YouTube video of Butker’s speech.

The college did not respond to ABC News’ request for comment on Butker’s commencement address.

The NFL told ABC News the organization is “steadfast” in its “commitment to inclusion.”

“Harrison Butker gave a speech in his personal capacity. His views are not those of the NFL as an organization,” Jonathan Beane, the league’s chief diversity and inclusion officer, told ABC News in a statement. “The NFL is steadfast in our commitment to inclusion, which only makes our league stronger.”

The Kansas City Chiefs did not reply to ABC News’ request for comment.

Copyright © 2024, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Related Articles

Back to top button