American football player and equal marriage advocate, Brendon Ayanbadejo, has said that he hopes to start a positive dialogue about gay players in the NFL following anti-gay comments by fellow player, Chris Culliver.
Earlier this week, Chris Culliver, who is set to play for the San Francisco 49ers in this weekend’s Super Bowl said in an interview that he didn’t think there were any gay players on his team, and that they wouldn’t be welcome if there were.
Brendon Ayanbadejo, who has been very outspoken in his support for equal marriage, was approached by the media on Thursday following Mr Culliver’s comments. He said that he thought the comments of one player shouldn’t reflect on the NFL as a whole.
“It’s not fair to bundle us all up and say the NFL is homophobic,” Ayanbadejo said. “You can’t control how individuals think. I would like to think that every single organization would stand on the side of not accepting discrimination.”
Ayanbadejo acknowledged that the statements by Culliver were not unique but said it presented an opportunity to tackle the contentious issue of gay players coming out, in a positive way.
“A lot of guys don’t know anything about it,” he said. “They may have friends in the LGBT community but they don’t know it. They have no knowledge or understanding of the situation, so I try to shed some light on it when I can.
“When the situation comes up, 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.
“I see guys coming around slowly and they say, ‘Oh, B.A.’s around, we can’t say this or say that.’ But I think eventually it’s going to be [change them when] they’re out and when they’re doing other things. It’s not just gay. There are so many words that are not politically correct. It’s not acceptable and it hurts people.”
“[I was] really just not thinking. [It was] something that I thought. Definitely nothing that I felt in my heart,” Culliver said.
He added: “I support gay people, gay communities, and different racial [backgrounds]. It was just something I feel apologetic to, and 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.”
Openly gay former 49ers player, Kwame Harris, also spoke out about the comments made by Culliver prior to his apology being issued.
Mr Harris told NBC: ”It’s surprising that in 2013 Chris Culliver would use his 15 minutes to spread vitriol and hate. I recognize that these are comments that he may come to regret and that he may come to see that gay people are not so different than straight people.”
San Francisco coach Jim Harbaugh said the comments were not acceptable, the Baltimore Sun reports.
“We reject what he said. That’s not something that reflects the way the organization feels, the way most of the players feel,” Harbaugh said.
A statement from Mr Culliver’s team condemned his comments: “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.”
The Super Bowl will take place in the US on 3 February 2013.