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Harrison Butker’s Commencement Speech Was Messy and Distasteful

Kansas+City+Chiefs+kicker+Harrison+Butker+%287%29+walks+to+the+practice+field+during+training+camp+on+July+29%2C+2023%2C+in+St.+Joseph%2C+Missouri.+%28Emily+Curiel%2FThe+Kansas+City+Star%2FTNS%29
Kansas City Chiefs kicker Harrison Butker (7) walks to the practice field during training camp on July 29, 2023, in St. Joseph, Missouri. (Emily Curiel/The Kansas City Star/TNS)

Harrison Butker needs to spend less time giving speeches at college commencements and more time practicing on the football field.

Kansas City Chiefs Kicker Harrison Butker’s commencement speech to Benedictine College was embarrassing for not only himself, but for the National Football League (NFL) and the Chiefs as well.

Butker was invited to the private Catholic college in Atchison, Kansas to speak to the graduates on May 11. He used his time at the podium to go on a political tirade attacking women, Pride Month, and other issues under the guise of religious freedom.

This speech could have a ripple effect throughout the league, because Butker is one of the faces representing the NFL and the Chiefs as brands.

When referencing the LGBTQ+ community and Pride Month, Butker said, “…the deadly sin sort of Pride that has an entire month dedicated to it…”

Considering how far the United States has come in terms of equality for the LGBTQ+ community, it is absurd to me that a public figure felt comfortable enough to make this claim and has yet to face any repercussions.

According to the NFL’s website, the football league “proudly supports the LGBTQ+ community,” so Butker’s speech at Benedictine College contests the words of his employers. The Chiefs are also supportive of the LGBTQ+ community, with a Pride collection of their teamwear available year-round on their website.

Jonathan Beane, the NFL’s Chief Diversity Officer, told Outsports that Butker’s words do not reflect the beliefs of the NFL in an article published May 15. I see this as nothing more than a cop-out. Simply condemning his actions without taking corrective action does not show me that the NFL disagrees with Butker.

Butker is a spokesperson for the football league, meaning he has a responsibility to uphold and promote the league’s beliefs. The same applies to the NFL and the Chiefs. I see any involved party as complicit if they continue to remain silent in Butker’s actions.

Butker’s actions have shown the NFL’s and the Chief’s attempts at LGBTQ+ inclusivity are a false sense of security for queer people. Those Pride-themed Chiefs t-shirts are now a mirage, because their own players are putting out dangerous statements that completely counteract their inclusivity efforts.

Pride month is days away, and it would be very distasteful of the Chiefs and the NFL to profit from the LGBTQ+ community through Pride team-wear while they continue to employ a player making homophobic comments in a public setting.

This language and the pain it causes engrains itself into the minds of queer individuals and leaves indefinite trauma. However, this was not the only problematic point made by Butker.

When addressing the women in the audience, he said, “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,” adding that his wife’s “life truly started when she began living her vocation as a wife and as a mother.”

His speech continued to deteriorate when he proclaimed that his wife “embrace[d] one of the most important titles of all: homemaker.”

Advising women to be nothing more than homemakers is belittling and misogynistic, especially given the circumstances, as he is speaking directly to a crowd of hardworking graduates who are now transitioning into the workforce.

As far as his career is concerned, he likely won’t face any major repercussions, and that is a shame. He is under a nearly $20.3 million contract with the Chiefs, set to expire in 2025. With that price tag, he is clearly a valuable player.

With the end of his contract approaching, the Chiefs could easily take action and separate their name from the narrative, and they absolutely should. However, if they choose to do nothing on this matter, I see any efforts to promote inclusivity as insincere and performative.

On a more personal level, Harrison Butker is a role model. Young athletes likely look up to him, as he is one of the NFL’s best-performing kickers, with the third-highest all-time field goal points in Chiefs history. His influence and position of power are hard to deny, and for him to promote these harmful ideas is ludicrous.

The NFL and the Chiefs are now left in an uncomfortable scenario: continue to remain complicit or put actions behind their words and cut one of their top performers. It would be absurd to not go with the latter.

Corrections Update: May 16, 2024 @ 11:15 a.m. – A previous version of this story had a sentence that read “cut one of their top performers or put action behind their words” and has been correct to “continue to remain complicit or put actions behind their words and cut one of their top performers.”

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Harrison Butker’s Commencement Speech Was Messy and Distasteful