Go, Ravens?

1 Feb

Right on the eve of the Super Bowl, my 49ers love is a little less and more.

Less love, after cornerback Chris Culliver shared his perspective on gay players having a place in the locker room:

“I don’t do the gay guys. I don’t do that,” Culliver told Artie Lange on his radio show Tuesday, via Yahoo! Sports, when asked if a gay teammate would be welcomed.

Culliver was asked if there were any gay players on the 49ers.

“We don’t have any gay guys on the team,” Culliver said. “They gotta get up outta here if they do. Can’t be with that sweet stuff.”

If a player was gay, Culliver suggested the player should keep that fact to himself.

“Yeah, come out 10 years later after that” (http://www.nfl.com/news/story/0ap1000000133011/article/chris-culliver-wouldnt-accept-openly-gay-49ers-player).

Shame on Culliver for presuming he’s entitled to be homophobic. And for being willing to denigrate teammates–both those who may be gay and those who simply aren’t homophobic–right before the most important game of their season. No one needs that added stress when they’re trying to do their job to the best of their ability.

Maybe the NFL could have added that to their coverage of the story, which reported the remarks and then more or less shrugged because, you know, football players will be football players. NFL editor Gregg Rosenthal left it as an issue for gay players to fix, writing, “I suspect those feelings won’t change until years after a gay player has the courage to come out with his sexuality in public.”

No, Gregg, the answer is not to accept hostility as the norm and wait for a member of the target group to risk his career to stand up to it. And citing Jackie Robinson breaking the color barrier as the example doesn’t cut it. The 1940’s called. They want their bigotry back.

What professionals in (and writing about) the sport need to do is recognize the cost to all players when they have to expend mental and emotional energy being homophobic, regardless of their own sexuality. The physiological exertion that hatred and fear require detracts from what they have to give the game. And that’s why homophobia needs to be over in the NFL.

And while I appreciate the 49ers’ official comment following Culliver’s remarks (“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”), I do wish they would have spoken with actions, and not just words.

Hate speech should get you benched. Even for the Super Bowl.

As for the Ravens, they’ve already got my vote for MVP: linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo who is using his status to take a stand for equality. I’ve written about Ayanbadejo before. The very night the Ravens secured their spot in the Superbowl, he e-mailed Brian Ellner, leading marriage-equality advocate, and Michael Skolnik, political director for hip hop businessman Russell Simmons (who has taken a stand for same-sex marriage). At 4am, still pumped from his semifinals victory, Ayanbadejo wrote, “Is there anything I can do for marriage equality or anti-bullying over the next couple of weeks to harness this Super Bowl media?” (http://bruni.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/01/22/carrying-a-cause-to-the-super-bowl/) That‘s what I’m talking about!

So on Sunday, go, 49ers. Go, Ravens. And go, Ayanbadejo!

One Response to “Go, Ravens?”

  1. iCheckOther February 3, 2013 at 3:53 pm #

    Good to know I have something/someone extra special to root for in the hullabaloo tonight, besides my actual goal which is to watch the Baltimorians be so Ravenous… !

    Cheers, Laura

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