Days before the Super Bowl, San Francisco 49er Chris Culliver suggested that gay players would not be welcome in the locker room, prompting his team to do some damage control.
"I don't do the gay guys, man," Culliver said in a Media Day interview with radio host Artie Lange, who had asked if gay men ever hit on him, or if there were any gay players on the 49ers. "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."
Lange pushed him and asked if gay players should keep their sexual orientation a secret.
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"Yeah," Culliver said. "Come out 10 years later after that."
The radio host and comedian played the clip on his show and expressed surprise at Culliver's willingness to frankly express his views on the matter.
"No matter how politically correct the world gets, the NFL and certain cultures will always be homophobic in my eyes," Lange said. "And these guys don't even care about getting in trouble I think."
The team issued a statement after Culliver's comments were publicized, indicating that the 49ers "reject" his comments "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 Sacramento Bee points out that in 2002 49er running back Garrison Hearst also said gays weren't welcome on his team after Esera Tuaolo came out of the closet. "Aw, hell no!" he said, adding that he didn't want any gay people on the 49ers. "I know that might not be what people want to hear, but that's a punk." He later apologized.
But there have been signs of growing acceptance. Earlier in the year Ravens linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo made headlines for his vocal support of gay marriage — and the negative response he got from a Maryland legislator. Emmett C. Burns Jr. sent a letter to Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti asking that he "inhibit such expressions from your employee," prompting many football fans and players to come to Ayanbadejo's defense.
Ayanbadejo has said he would use the Super Bowl as a platform to promote gay rights, but chose not to address the issue at Media Day, according to the Bee.
"Actually, I talked about that so I don't want to keep touching on that subject, but obviously we're here at the Super Bowl, and it's the pinnacle of sports here in the United States so I just really want to focus," he said.