San Francisco 49ers defensive back Chris Culliver made news during Super bowl week after answering a question posed by comedian Artie Lange about a gay player in the NFL and now the host has responded.
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Lange was tracked down by TMZ.com at the airport and he said that he was not surprised by Culliver's comments and that he hopes the player learns from his actions. Lange made the video public and it turned into a public relations issue for the 49ers.
"I hope he learns from it," Lange said after he arrived at JFK to TMZ,"and I hope I'm responsible for breaking the gay barrier in the NFL."
Lange said that he hopes the comments help NFL players to be more tolerant of homosexuals and that it won't happen until someone comes out of the closet while active in the league.
"I think unfortunately what Culliver said reflects what 99 % of the league thinks," Lange says. What's gonna have to happen is a real star player ... a Jackie Robinson type ... a real star player is gonna have to come out WHILE HE'S PLAYING ... and other people will follow."
Speaking with comedian Artie Lang on Super Bowl Media Day, Culliver originally said when asked about homosexuals in the NFL, "I don't do the gay guys, man. I don't do that. ... 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."
Following his comments, Culliver apologized, releasing a statement last week:
"The derogatory comments I made yesterday were a reflection of thoughts in my head, but they are not how I feel. It has taken me seeing them in print to realize that they are hurtful and ugly," he said. "Those discriminating feelings are truly not in my heart. Further, I apologize to those who I have hurt and offended, and I pledge to learn and grow from this experience."
Culliver will undergo a sensitivity training program with an LGBT organization according to the 49ers and the team came out afterwards to discuss the comments. San Francisco is known as a gay-friendly city and the comments he made shook some people in the area.
The team issued a statement that read, "The San Francisco 49ers reject the comments that were made yesterday, 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 24-year-old cornerback was called for a crucial pass interference penalty in the game and is in his second year in the NFL after being drafted in the third round out of South Carolina.
Culliver's comments were the opposite of another Super Bowl player in Brendon Ayanbadejo, who has been very public in his support of gay marriage.
Ayanbadejo has been advocating for gay rights for a number of years, but things did not get widespread attention until earlier this season, when Maryland State Delegate Emmett C. Burns, Jr. wrote a letter in August to Baltimore Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti, saying that Bisciotti "take the necessary action ... to inhibit such expressions from your employee." Burns' letter went on to state that, "I know of no other NFL player who has done what Mr. Ayanbadejo is doing." Burns' letter went on to state that, "I know of no other NFL player who has done what Mr. Ayanbadejo is doing."
Ayanbadejo spoke about Culliver's comments during Super Bowl week to the Contra Costa Times.
"Being from the Bay Area myself, that's something that we really try to preach -- love and acceptance of everybody," Ayanbadejo said Thursday at the Ravens press conference. "So I really couldn't even say anything negative to the young man. It's one of those things that you have to live and you have to learn. In the words of Martin Luther King, you can't fight hate with hate, you have to fight hate with love.''
"We've all made our mistakes, we've all been there and done certain things and we've hurt people regardless of whether we we meant to do it or not,'' Ayanbadejo said. ''More than anything, it's an opportunity to have a learning experience.''