San Francisco 49ers issue weak statement over Chris Culliver’s call for gays to quit NFL

UPDATE: I just found out that the 49ers suspended a player just last month for comments criticizing the team and the coach. So it’s not just possible for them to suspend Culliver, they have suspended players for their big mouths.  And they went public with the disciplinarian action. So why are the 49ers refusing today to say what disciplinary action if any they took against Culliver? Is it because anti-gay bigotry isn’t as big a deal to the 49ers as being mean to a coach?


The San Francisco 49ers issued a bizarre statement this afternoon, in response to team cornerback Chris Culliver’s comments earlier today, at an official NFL Super Bowl media event, calling on all gay men to get out of the NFL.

“I don’t do the gay guys man,” said Culliver, whose Niners play the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday. “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.

In response to the immediate uproar over Culliver’s bigoted remarks, the 49ers issued the following statement:

“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.”

A few points.

1. I don’t see the words “sorry” or “apologize” anywhere in the entire very-short statement.

2. So nothing is going to happen to Chris Culliver for using an official NFL Super Bowl media event in order to create a hostile workplace for his fellow teammates and for any teams he plays against in the future?  Sure sounds that way.  “We addressed it” is usually code for “we didn’t do jack about it, and we expect this will now all go away.”

But let’s take the 49ers at their word – they “addressed” it.  So what did they do to address it?  Is he fired?  Suspended at least from Sunday’s game?  How about a fine?  Or how about absolutely nothing.  We don’t know because the 49ers clearly aren’t interested in any kind of public accountability on this matter.

And it’s not like the 49ers didn’t have options here.  You can suspend someone for out-of-line comments. It’s happened before.  From ESPN in 2008:

Less than 48 hours after Kellen Winslow voiced his displeasure with the Cleveland Browns organization, the team opted to discipline its Pro Bowl tight end.

The Browns suspended Winslow for one game without pay following his comments after Sunday’s 14-11 loss to the Washington Redskins. Winslow was unhappy with the way the team and Browns general manager Phil Savage publicly handled his staph infection and said he felt like “a piece of meat.”
As a result, Winslow will be held out of Sunday’s road game against the Jacksonville Jaguars (3-3), costing him $235,294 — his one-game paycheck. Winslow also will not be allowed to practice or attend meetings at the team’s facility this week and cannot return until Monday.

“Kellen has expressed his desire to be a productive member of the Cleveland Browns,” Savage said in a statement. “His comments and behavior on Sunday evening, however, were unwarranted, inappropriate, and unnecessarily disparaging to our organization. His statements brought unjustified negative attention to our organization, and violated the team-first concept of our football squad. Therefore, disciplinary action will be taken in the form of a one-game suspension without pay for conduct detrimental to the club.”

Oh, but how about a more recent example.  And how about an example that not only includes “speech,” but also includes the 49ers.  JUST ONE MONTH AGO:

The San Francisco 49ers suspended running back Brandon Jacobs on Monday for the final three games following a series of posts on social media sites addressing his lack of playing time, including one during the weekend saying he was ”on this team rotting away.”

If anything, to me the 49ers’ statement sounded like they were afraid of offending any bigots out there who might get upset if they did anything to hold Culliver accountable for his incredibly offensive, anti-gay statements.

You just can’t say “there is no place for discrimination,” and then do seemingly nothing when one of your own players hijacks an official event to create a hostile workplace for his coworkers.  And I’m sorry, but you don’t “proudly suppor the LGBT community” when you’re clearly too afraid to suspend or fire Culliver for remarks that would have gotten a player booted had they said blacks have place in the NFL – when you’re clearly too afraid to even talk about how you fixed the problem.

And forget about the 49ers, how about the NFL?  Not a word from the NFL, even though this occurred at an official NFL Super Bowl event.  And people wonder why there are no openly-gay people in the NFL.  With bigots like Chris Culliver running around, and weak-tea responses from their teams, and zero from the NFL, I’d be afraid of the NFL’s, and especially the 49ers’, hostile work environment as well.

Of course, the good thing about hostile work environments is that once your employer is made aware of them, and doesn’t do enough to address them, your damages go way up in a civil rights lawsuit.

UPDATE: Pam Spaulding of Pam’s House Blend agrees that the 49ers’ statement is a problem.  Pam just sent me the following:

“How infantile a statement this was from San Francisco 49ers cornerback Chris Culliver, who surely has a media handler. How on earth could the 49ers, based in the epicenter of GayWorld,  expect to field a player so ignorant and bigoted to the extreme without PR blowback?
Apparently we found out how weak its public relations department is, when it came out with the team’s statement, a sad skirting of the issue did not address the specific, offensive nature of Culliver’s remarks or even take seriously its responsibility to its gay fans (and allies) who find this sort of public statement beneath the organization. How about a statement on how it would treat a gay 49er who wants to be able to live a life out of the closet while still an active player? That would show some gravitas.”

Follow me on Twitter: @aravosis | @americablog | @americabloggay | Facebook | Instagram | Google+ | LinkedIn. John Aravosis is the Executive Editor of AMERICAblog, which he founded in 2004. He has a joint law degree (JD) and masters in Foreign Service from Georgetown; and has worked in the US Senate, World Bank, Children's Defense Fund, the United Nations Development Programme, and as a stringer for the Economist. He is a frequent TV pundit, having appeared on the O'Reilly Factor, Hardball, World News Tonight, Nightline, AM Joy & Reliable Sources, among others. John lives in Washington, DC. .

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