By Anna Peirano
Chris Culliver, cornerback of the San Francisco 49ers, says gays aren’t welcome in the locker room, or the NFL in general.
Artie Lange, radio host and sports commentator, said he interviewed Culliver at media day on Tuesday and aired a segment on his show that night. The host asked Culliver about his thoughts concerning gays in the NFL. Culliver’s response? General distaste.
As reported on Yahoo Sports, Culliver said:
“I don’t do the gay guys man. 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.”
Culliver’s advice? If you’re gay, forget it, and “come out 10 years later after that.”
In contrast, Ravens linebacker Brendon Ayandabejo had hoped to use the Super Bowl media frenzy to progress LGBT equality. As an ally of the LGBT community, he said his ultimate goal upon winning the game would be “To go on Ellen [DeGeneres’] show, to be dancing with her, to bust a move with her.”
Despite San Francisco’s demographic of LGBT residents, Culliver is not the first team member to express anti-gay sentiments. In 2002, 49ers running back Garrison Hearst reacted to the coming out of former defensive lineman Esera Tuaolo by saying, “Aww, hell no! I don’t want any faggots on my team. I know this might not be what people want to hear, but that’s a punk. I don’t want any faggots in this locker room.” Hearst later apologized, as did team owner John York and then-coach Steve Mariucci.
At the time, Mariucci also said, “As a coach, as a teacher, as a father, personally I have a strong belief in tolerance, equality and civil rights, equal opportunity and I hope that’s reflected in the way I live my life. There’s no place in this organization, on this team or in our society for that matter, there’s no place for discrimination of any sort…Those comments aren’t warranted anywhere in this country…It’s not acceptable, but especially in San Francisco.”
There has yet to be an official statement released from either York or now head coach Jim Harbaugh regarding Culliver’s statements.
However, last month, Harbaugh told a reporter from the San Francisco Chronicle’s IPad 49ers magazine that he would welcome a gay player.
“I ask all players to play through their own personality and be who they are,” Harbaugh is quoted as saying. “What you ask of a player is to be a great teammate and be a good player. My expectations would be the same. Personally, there’s no discrimination in my heart.”
Other 49er teammates have been more positive concerning the idea of a gay teammate.
“At the end of the day, we are all family in this locker room, and we accept each player for whoever they are,” said linebacker Larry Grant.
“Whatever makes you happy, do it,” cornerback Tarell Brown said. “I just feel like, you shouldn’t hide it. At the end of the day don’t be embarrassed with what you are, or what you do. If you are that way, that’s you.”
The 49ers are still the only NFL team to have produced a video for the It Gets Better Project.
There has never been an openly gay active player in the National Football League’s history. There have been only four players to come out as gay after their time in the NFL, including Roy Simmons in 1992 and Wade Davis in 2012, as well as Esera Tuaolo in 2002 and Kwame Harris in 2013. Both Tuaolo and Harris played for the 49ers.
Update 1/30: The 49ers officially released a statment Wednesday afternoon, 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.”