49ers Chris Culliver Gets Schooled by Trevor Project
In an ironic twist of events, the 49ers -- everyone’s favorite to win the Superbowl -- were defeated at the claws of the Ravens. This defeat comes at the heels of an already trying season for the 49ers resulting from cornerback Chris Culliver’s anti-gay rant on Artie Lange’s radio show.
"I don’t do the gay guys, man. I don’t do that," he said. "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."
Was this karma? Perhaps. The loss, after all, came at the hands of the Ravens: home of linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo who is one of the NFL’s most outspoken champions for gay rights and gay marriage. While the backlash for Culliver’s statements has been severe, he admittedly did do the gay community one favor. His controversial statement created a nationwide discussion on homophobia in sports and an opportunity for learning.
Culliver is one of many public figures whose behavior is emulated by kids everywhere and in an effort to make amends for his recent misstep, he reached out on Feb. 1 to the Trevor Project for sensitivity training.
"As an African American male, I should know better. Hate and discrimination have a lasting effect, and words matter. I also have a responsibility to myself, and especially to my young fans to be a better role model," said Culliver in a Feb. 2 release. "I was wrong, and I want to learn how to make it right. That’s why I reached out to The Trevor Project... No child should ever feel like they are less than anyone else, and God has put me through this storm so I can learn from my mistakes and help make sure no child has to feel that way again."
The Trevor Project is the leading national organization providing crisis intervention and suicide prevention services to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning youth. Abbe Land, CEO and executive director of Trevor, admitted that it was Chris Culliver and his family who personally extended a hand out to their community.
"Chris reached out to us for education, and that’s what we’re focusing on," said Land. "Chris has expressed to us that he recognizes his words were harmful to others, and that he doesn’t like that he may have caused harm. From what he shared with us, that is why he came to Trevor, because every day we hear from LGBTQ youth about the challenges they face and empower them to find ways to handle those challenges."
Land said that the Trevor Project offered adult-focused education programs for those who work with youth, parents and professionals, and that over the next several weeks, the organization would work with Culliver to help him understand more about LGBTQ youth and the power of words.
"He may eventually move to be an ally for LGBTQ youth and do work in the greater community, but that’s up to Chris," said Land.
The Trevor Project is not new to the issue of homophobia in sports and its damaging effects on those who fall victim to it. They hope that out of pro football will emerge a role model for LGBTQ youth.
"It would be terrific if a marquee player in a professional sport who is lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender were empowered to come out and to be a role model for LGBTQ youth," said Land, who told EDGE that they would celebrate and be proud of that person for their bravery, and thank them for being a hero to their LGBTQ fans.
"That said, just like we tell the young people who contact us, coming out is a process, and it’s different for everyone," she added. "There is no right or wrong way to come out, and there is not one single path to follow. At The Trevor Project, we respect everyone, no matter where they are on their personal path to coming out as LGBTQ or as an ally."
But how ready are the NFL and the public to receive an active openly gay athlete? Jim Buzinski from Outsports.com believes that while we are on our way to getting there, we are not near yet.
"It’s getting more ready as more players are publicly affirming they would support a gay teammate. However, it is impossible to predict when a player will come out since the coming out process is so personal for everyone and there is still a stigma in sports, though the stigma is fading," said Buzinski.
Professional football is undoubtedly the most testosterone-fueled sport in the country. And while a few players like Wade Davis and Kwame Harris have come out, they did so after retiring.
While the admission of an active player is probably still a long way from happening, the immediate outpouring of support for closeted players from their fellow teammates is certainly a step in the right direction towards creating an environment where they feel safer about coming out. There is hope that a Jackie Robinson will emerge for the gay community and turn the tide of public opinion positively towards the LGBT community.
In the meantime, the opportunity to learn more about the LGBTQ community and how to help out is not reserved solely for those with exceptional athletic prowess. The Trevor Project holds CARE Webinars every Wednesday, focusing on how to reduce the risk for suicide, promote resiliency and incorporate the best practices to create positive environments for all youth.
For more info, visit www.thetrevorproject.org/webinars