One of the biggest stories during the 2013 Super Bowl week was when San Francisco 49ers cornerback Chris Culliver made anti-gay remarks in an interview during media day. Culliver told a radio host that he would not welcome a gay teammate, especially in the locker room. The next day, under much pressure, he apologized for his comments.
The good news is these comments are no longer being tolerated by the American public or by professional sports leagues, and an athlete risks losing commercial endorsements and even his career if he makes such intolerant remarks. The bad news is many athletes seem blissfully unaware of how America has evolved on this issue.
Outfielder Torii Hunter is another athlete who ignited controversy by stating he would be uncomfortable playing alongside a gay athlete. Like many who take such a position, Hunter cited his religious upbringing as the justification for his stance. Facing criticism, Hunter used twitter to walk back his comments.
It should be remembered that religious faith is the very reason slave owners gave for the continuation of that heinous system; slavery was in the Bible and therefore it was justified and a legitimate way of life. However, slavery had outlived its time and not even the Bible could give it sanction.
The Bible says many things we no longer use to condemn or oppress people. For example, Luke 16:18 says, “Anyone who divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery, and he who marries a woman divorced from her husband commits adultery.” But in today’s society we do not ostracize anyone who is divorced and we do not consider them to be adulterers. 1 Corinthians 14:34-35, Ephesians 5:21-24, and 1 Timothy 2:11-14 have to do with women keeping silent in the church and being submissive and subordinate to men, yet today our society does not try to limit women or keep them from aspiring to high political, business and social statuses.
Athletes who have been publicly chastised for making derogatory remarks about gays are often defended by reactionaries who scream that it is political correctness. But for professional sports franchises and organizations, this has much more to do with good business practices than morality or political correctness. If you are the San Francisco 49ers and play in a city with a very large gay population, having one of your players making anti-gay remarks is simply bad for business.
Athletes must be made aware that they are in business and the worst thing for business is to say and do things that drive away customers. Sports teams are all about trying to expand their fan bases, not contract them. Athletes should also be made aware that gay rights is the civil rights issue of the early part of the 21st century, and just as it became time to welcome Jackie Robinson and push aside those who would stand in his way, it is now time to welcome the openly gay athlete and shove aside those who resist this progress.