Maria Shriver hits back at Chiefs kicker Harrison Butker’s ‘demeaning’ commencement speech

‘We all have the right to voice our opinions, but let us strive to do so with dignity and respect,’ Shriver says

Amber Raiken
New York
Friday 17 May 2024 10:22 BST
Maria Shriver hits back at Chiefs kicker Harrison Butker’s ‘demeaning’ commencement speech
Maria Shriver hits back at Chiefs kicker Harrison Butker’s ‘demeaning’ commencement speech (Getty Images)

Support truly
independent journalism

Our mission is to deliver unbiased, fact-based reporting that holds power to account and exposes the truth.

Whether $5 or $50, every contribution counts.

Support us to deliver journalism without an agenda.

Louise Thomas

Louise Thomas


Maria Shriver has hit back at Kansas City Chiefs kicker Harrison Butker’s “demeaning” commencement speech.

The journalist, 68, took to X – formerly known as Twitter – on Thursday to slam Butker’s controversial speech during the Class of 2024 graduation at Benedictine College, a Catholic school in Kansas. During his speech, he made polarising remarks in the name of Catholic extremism, including comments criticising President Joe Biden for his faith, and attacking LGBTQ+ Pride Month. He also suggested women should focus on motherhood instead of their careers.

In her statement shared on X, Shriver started by asking Butker what point he was trying to “make to women” with his remarks about their “present day life choices”.

“Did he really want them, aka us, to believe that our lives truly only begin when we lean into the vocation of wife and mother?” she wrote. “I read that a couple times over, and then I went to listen to make sure I heard it correctly. I DID.”

She then recalled how he spoke to men in the audience during his speech, specifically quoting his claim that men “set the tone of the culture, and when that is absent, disorder, dysfunction, and chaos set in”. He also claimed that “this absence of men in the home is what plays a larger role in the violence we see all around the nation”.

After also calling Butker out for taking “a swipe at the LGBTQ community,” she acknowledged how she disagreed with his remarks, and why she was publicly speaking out about it.

“Look, everyone has a right to free speech in our country,” she wrote. “That’s the benefit of living in a democracy. But those of us who are women and who have a voice have the right to disagree with Butker.”

The mother of four children – who she shares with ex-Arnold Schwarzenegger – continued her statement by reflecting on her successes in her career and family life. She then pointed out how Butker’s speech takes away from all the achievements that women have had when outside of their homes.

“As a woman who has leaned into my vocation of living a meaningful life and working inside and outside the home to not only raise good humans but also raise up our country in various ways, I think it’s demeaning to women to imply that their choices outside of wife and motherhood pale in comparison to that of a homemaker,” she continued.

She reflected on the history of women’s rights, adding: “It took a revolution to get women the right to vote, to get women birth control pills, to get women to be able to put their names on a checking account, to get them maternity leave, to get them anything close to pay equity, to get elected to office, to get them where they are today.”

Shriver noted that while she’s “happy” that Butker’s wife, Isabelle, has the opportunity to be a stay-at-home mother, not all “women can make that choice, even if they wanted to”. She pointed out how multiple families need both parents to be working to function in their everyday lives, which could include “raising kids”, “caring for aging parents,” and more.

She also hit back at Butker’s idea that men “set the tone for the culture”, explaining that all men and women could do this. She concluded by sharing some words of advice to the NFL player.

“I will not tell Mr Butker to stick to kicking, but I would suggest next time he speaks to women first and listen to someone with a clearer take on where most women find themselves in 2024,” Shriver concluded.

In the caption of her tweet, she also noted: “We all have the right to voice our opinions, but let us strive to do so with dignity and respect.”

In his commencement speech, Butker lambasted the fall of traditional Catholic values within society, telling the crowd of graduates that “abortion, IVF, surrogacy, euthanasia as well as a growing support for degenerate cultural values and media” were a byproduct of “the pervasiveness of disorder”.

He then geared his speech toward the female audience members, saying that they’ve been told “diabolical lies” concerning their roles in society. He told them they shouldn’t pursue a career, noting that in his personal experience, his family was successful because his wife became a homemaker. “Her life truly started when she began living her vocation as a wife and as a mother,” he claimed.

He also commended the Benedictine graduating class for embracing their faith rather than giving into “deadly sin” celebrations like the upcoming Pride Month, which celebrates LGBTQ+ history and liberation. However, he called out Catholic parishioners for “misleading their flocks”, quoting lyrics from Taylor Swift’s – who’s dating Chiefs star Travis Kelce – song, “Bejeweled,” and said their “familiarity breeds contempt”.

After the speech went viral and was met with immense criticism on social media, the NFL officially spoke out. In a statement shared withPeople on 16 May, the NFL’s senior vice president and chief diversity and inclusion officer, Jonathan Beane, made it clear that the organisation’s world views were different from Butker’s.

“Harrison Butker gave a speech in his personal capacity,” Beane said. “His views are not those of the NFL as an organisation. The NFL is steadfast in our commitment to inclusion, which only makes our league stronger.”

Join our commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies


Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in