As the 49ers and the Ravens gear up for Superbowl XLVII, one 49ers player is feeling a little more pressure on him than his teammates: Cornerback Chris Culliver, who landed himself in a good bit of trouble for anti-gay remarks he made on Tuesday during a press event.
While the gay marriage movement picks up momentum, homophobia remains a serious problem in pro sports. Currently, out of 1,696 NFL players, not one is openly gay.
Why are athletes so disproportionately homophobic? Wade Davis says this is due to a perception that gay men are "not real men, aren't tough and strong." I think it's because they shower together.
Fortunately, one thing we can do to improve the situation is publicly condemn expressions of homophobia by prominent athletes and pressure them to apologize for hateful remarks.
Here's a list of 7 of some of the most homophobic quotes from atheletes:
1. San Francisco 49ers Cornerback Chris Culliver
(Photo Credit: Ravencrest Travel)
The Super Bowl-bound cornerback went on a short anti-gay tirade during a discussion he had with a comedian on Super Bowl media day, telling him that gays were not welcome on the San Francisco team.
“I don't do the gay guys, man. I don't do that,” Culliver said during a one-minute taped interview. “Ain't got no gay people on the team. They gotta get up outta here if they do. Can't be with that sweet stuff.”
To his credit, Culliver apologized on Thursday.
“That’s not what I feel in my heart,” he said, acknowledging he realized that his comments were probably especially offensive to the Bay Area and its large gay community.
Other players have expressed hope that Culliver’s comments can help him grow personally and become a role model for equality.
“You can't fight hate with hate,” Ravens linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo said. “You've got to fight hate with love.”
2. San Francisco 49ers Running Back Garrison Hearst
(Photo Credit: HealingHunter)
When the Fresno Bee asked Hearst what his opinion was on former NFL defensive tackle Esera Tuaolo coming out of the closet, Hearst poured out the haterade:
“Aww, hell no! I don't want any faggots on my team. I know this might not be what people want to hear, but that's a punk. I don't want any faggots in this locker room.”
Showing no class whatsoever, Hearst held out for three weeks before saying “if I hurt somebody’s feelings, I hate that I did that.”
Consider this one still unapologized for then, technically.
3. Chicago Cubs Pitcher Julian Tavarez
(Photo Credit: UCinternational)
The 27-year-old pitcher lost his temper after being booed by fans in San Francisco during a 5-0 loss to the Giants.
“Why should I care about the fans?” Tavarez said after the game. “They're a bunch of assholes and faggots here.”
While he apologized to the LGBT community and the city of San Francisco, Tavarez is generally acknowledged to be an all-around jerk in addition to his homophobic tendencies. The booing that caused him to lose his cool stemmed from a fistfight he got into with teammate Russ Davis during spring training, and he was well-known for breaking things in dugouts and bullpens for fun.
One time, while playing for the Red Sox, he even deliberately fielded a slow grounder up the line and rolled the ball to first baseman Kevin Youkilis. His justification? “Because I want to.”
4. Atlanta Braves Pitcher John Rocker
(Photo Credit: Wayne Mondo)
John Rocker, former Atlanta Braves relief pitcher, gave a slew of now-infamous comments to Sports Illustrated in a hate-filled January 2000 interview which dissed not just gay people, but single mothers, Asians, Indians, Russians and Latinos.
“Imagine having to take the 7 Train to the ballpark looking like you're riding through Beirut next to some kid with purple hair, next to some queer with AIDS, right next to some dude who just got out of jail for the fourth time, right next to some 20-year-old mom with four kids,” he said.
“The biggest thing I don't like about New York are the foreigners,” Rocker said. “You can walk an entire block in Times Square and not hear anybody speaking English.
“Asians and Koreans and Vietnamese and Indians and Russians and Spanish people and everything up there. How the hell did they get in this country?”
Rocker is still a terrible person, having backed Newt Gingrich in the 2011 Republican primaries.
“I mean, he is an absolute genius – just a marksman in historical value of pretty much anything you want to discuss,” he raved on Mike Silva’s New York Baseball Digest.
5. Tennis Player and Wimbledon Champ Goran Ivanisevic
(Photo Credit: Common Term)
The Croatian Ivanisevic went from wild-card entrant to 2001 Wimbledon champ in a stunning upset that quickly turned into a really awkward silence during his post-match press conference.
Q: “When you were broken at 4-2 in the fourth set, controversial point there, can you go over that with us, what you thought should have happened?”
IVANISEVIC: “First of all, that game, I was 30-Love up. I play some stupid shots. I make myself in trouble. Then first foot fault. Hit great serve. He missed it. First foot fault all tournament. That ugly, ugly lady, she was really ugly, very serious, you know. I was like kind of scared.”
“Then I hit another second serve, huge. And that ball was on the line, was not even close. And that guy, he looks like a faggot little bit, you know. This hair all over him. He call it. I couldn't believe he did it."
It wasn’t the first or last time Ivanisevic used “faggot” as his favorite slur.
“Last year I played well here and played like a faggot at Wimbledon,” Ivanisevic said two weeks prior to the match. “Better to play like a faggot here and play well at Wimbledon.”
In another interview, he casually mentioned that some other players throw racquets “like a faggot.”
6. Sacramento Kings Guard Jason Williams
(Photo Credit: Mike)
Here’s how you don’t respond to a fan accusing you of being a skinhead: call them a “fag” and threaten to kill them.
When confronted by an Asian fan, Michael Ching, who called him a “racist” “skinhead,” Williams responded:
“Are you a fag? Are you gay? Do you remember the Vietnam War? I’ll kill y’all just like that. Rat-a-tat-tat,” he said while pretending to level a rifle at Ching. “Just like Pearl Harbor.”
“I did not intend any disrespect to the Asian community or any other community. I was wrong and I apologize,” Williams said in a written apology that notably mentioned nothing about his anti-gay slurs.
The NBA fined him $15,000 and Nike pulled out of a planned advertising campaign featuring the guard as a result. Sweet justice.
7. Philadelpha 76ers Starter Allen Iverson
(Photo Credit: Keith Allison)
NBA-star-turned-terrible-rapper Iverson (also formerly know by his rap name, “Jewelz”) flirted with the idea of turning the 2000 off-season into a music release tour. His first single, 40 Bars, had the verses “man enough to pull a gun / be man enough to use it” and “come to me with faggot tendencies / you be sleeping where the maggots be.”
He also reportedly called a fan a “faggot,” a remark overheard by NBC cameras. Iverson alleged the fan had used racial slurs against him, but this was unproven. He was fined $5,000.
Iverson’s album was never released, probably due to equal parts controversy over the homophobic lyrics and label embarrassment over the quality of his music. I mean, did you ever listen to Shaq’s music?