KEYWORD NOTICE – NFL distances itself from player’s controversial speech on women, LGBTQ issues

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By Joseph Ax

(Reuters) – The NFL has distanced itself from a commencement speech by Kansas City Chiefs placekicker Harrison Butker in which he urged women to prioritize motherhood over careers, attacked President Joe Biden for supporting abortion rights and criticized “dangerous gender ideologies.”

Jonathan Beane, a senior vice president and the National Football League’s chief diversity and inclusion officer, said Butker’s views “are not those of the NFL as an organization” and reiterated the league’s commitment to inclusion.

Butker, 28, who has won back-to-back Super Bowls with the Chiefs, delivered his remarks on Saturday at the graduation ceremony at Benedictine College, a private, conservative Catholic liberal arts school in Kansas.

While the speech received a standing ovation, Butker’s remarks drew widespread criticism on social media. A Change.org petition calling on the Chiefs to release Butker had nearly 180,000 signatures as of Friday morning.

In the speech, Butker referred to Pride Month – the annual LGBTQ celebration that takes place in June – as “the deadly sin sort of pride,” saying that some Catholics are “pushing dangerous gender ideologies onto the youth of America.” He called Biden “delusional” for believing that one can be both a true Catholic and a supporter of abortion rights.

He also urged men to be “unapologetic in your masculinity, fighting against the cultural emasculation of men.” He had a separate message for women, encouraging them to focus on raising families rather than joining the workforce.

“Some of you may go on to lead successful careers in the world, but I would venture to guess that the majority of you are most excited about your marriage and the children you will bring into this world,” he said.

His own wife, he said, would say her life truly began only after she embraced “one of the most important titles of all: homemaker,” drawing lengthy applause.

In response, the Benedictine Sisters of Mount St. Scholastica, which co-founded the institution that eventually became Benedictine College, said they did not believe Butker’s speech represented the school.

“Instead of promoting unity in our church, our nation, and the world, his comments seem to have fostered division,” they said in a statement on Facebook. “One of our concerns was the assertion that being a homemaker is the highest calling for a woman.”

Some social media critics noted that Butker’s mother has had a distinguished career as a physicist.

A number of conservatives and anti-abortion activists came to Butker’s defense. In a post on X, Kristan Hawkins, the president of the anti-abortion group Students for Life, urged others to stand with Butker after he “spoke up so courageously in a culture that condemns Catholic & conservative values.”

The Chiefs and representatives for Butker did not immediately respond to requests for comment on Friday.

Butker played football at Georgia Tech before being selected by the Chiefs in the seventh and final round of the 2017 NFL draft. He has won three Super Bowls with the team and holds the second-highest career field goal percentage in NFL history.

(Reporting by Joseph Ax; Editing by Bill Berkrot)

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