Kansas City Chiefs kicker Harrison Butker doubles down on controversial graduation speech

Butker claimed that the intense reaction to his speech, viewed by many as sexist, was due to changing views of Catholic values

Brittany Miller
New York
Saturday 25 May 2024 18:14 BST
Related: Travis Kelce speaks out on Chiefs teammate Harrison Butker’s ‘homemaker’ speech

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Louise Thomas

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Harrison Butker has opened up for the first time about the negative reception of his graduation speech at Benedictine College — and doubled down on the controversial views in it that were widely viewed as sexist.

The Kansas City Chiefs kicker attended a gala in Nashville, Tennessee on Friday May 24, presented by a Catholic homeschool organization, the Regina Caeli Academy, where he is a board member. While there, Butker gave a speech where he touched on the aftermath of his headline-grabbing speech.

“The theme for tonight’s gala, Courage Under Fire, was decided many months ago, but it now feels providential that this would be the theme after what we have all witnessed these last two weeks,” Butker said. “If it wasn’t clear that the timeless Catholic values are hated by many, it is now.”

During his Benedictine speech, the football player specifically addressed the female members of the Class of 2024 and noted that instead of looking forward to their future careers and promotions, they should be looking forward to their marriages and birth of their children. He even used his own wife as an example, saying, “Her life truly started when she began living her vocation as a wife and as a mother.”

Despite many people turning to TikTok and X, formerly known as Twitter, to address the comments, Butker stood his ground on his comments on Friday, and reiterated that they came from his religious beliefs.

“Our love for Jesus, and thus, our desire to speak out, should never be outweighed by the longing of our fallen nature to be loved by the world,” Butker said. “Glorifying God and not ourselves should always remain our motivation despite any pushback, or even support. I lean on those closest to me for guidance, but I can never forget that it is not people, but Jesus Christ who I’m trying to please.”

Throughout the last week, the kicker’s teammates have also spoken out about the speech with tight-end Travis Kelce recently addressing the speech during an episode of his and his brother Jason Kelce’s New Heights podcast, which aired on May 24.

During the podcast, he made sure to mention how far back their friendship goes, saying, “I call him Harry, I might be the only person who calls him Harry.”

“That just tells you, I mean, I’ve known him for seven-plus, eight-plus years and I cherish him as a teammate… He’s treated friends and family that I’ve introduced to him with nothing but respect and kindness and that’s how he treats everyone.”

The tight end added that despite not agreeing with what was said in the speech, he wouldn’t judge his friend based on his religious views.

“I can’t say I agree with the majority of it, or just about any of it, outside of just him loving his family or his kids,” he continued. “And I don’t think I should judge him by his views, especially his religious views of how he goes about life. That’s just not who I am.”

The team’s quarterback, Patrick Mahomes, also mentioned the speech during a press conference on May 22. Similar to Kelce, he noted how long he has known Butker and wanted to speak to his personality aside from the graduation speech.

“I’ve known him for several years,” Mahomes said about his teammate. “When you’re in the locker room, there’s a lot of people from a lot of different areas of life, and they have a lot of different views on everything, and we’re not always gonna agree. There are certain things that he said that I don’t necessarily agree with, but I understand the person that he is, and he’s trying to do whatever he can to lead people in the right direction. It might not be the same values as I have, but at the same time, I’m gonna judge him by the character that he shows every single day, and that’s a great person.”

However, his speech also infuriated many with its views about women, with the NFL forced to release a statement declaring that his views “are not those of the NFL as an organization.”

Even a group of nuns associated with the college released a statement declaring that his speech “fostered division” and that education of women was a founding part of the school’s aim.

“The sisters of Mount St. Scholastica do not believe that Harrison Butker’s comments in his 2024 Benedictine College commencement address represent the Catholic, Benedictine, liberal arts college that our founders envisioned and in which we have been so invested,” it reads. “Instead of promoting unity in our church, our nation, and the world, his comments seem to have fostered division. One of our concerns was the assertion that being a homemaker is the highest calling for a woman. We sisters have dedicated our lives to God and God’s people, including the many women whom we have taught and influenced during the past 160 years. These women have made a tremendous difference in the world in their roles as wives and mothers and through their God-given gifts in leadership, scholarship, and their careers.”

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