- The Washington Times - Saturday, May 18, 2024

Conservative Catholics want to know if the NFL’s commitment to “inclusion” includes them after watching the league distance itself from Kansas City Chiefs kicker Harrison Butker.

CatholicVote President Brian Burch fired off a letter to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and Chiefs CEO Clark Hunt raising concerns about the league’s chilly reaction to the Pro Bowler’s May 11 commencement speech espousing traditional values at Benedictine College.

“We understand not every American, or NFL fan for that matter, may share the same opinions or beliefs as Mr. Butker,” Mr. Burch said. “We are hopeful, however, that you do not intend to send a message to Catholics, or to those that still uphold basic moral tenets of a civilized society, that they are outsiders and no longer welcome.”

He added: “To paraphrase a famous quote from NBA star Michael Jordan, ‘Catholics watch NFL games, too.’”

The NFL said it remains committed to “inclusion” following the backlash over Butker’s comments, which included criticizing abortion, taking a jab at Pride Month and stressing the importance of traditional family roles.

Harrison Butker gave a speech in his personal capacity,” said Jonathan Beane, NFL senior vice president and chief diversity and inclusion officer. “His views are not those of the NFL as an organization. The NFL is steadfast in our commitment to inclusion, which only makes our league stronger.”

Burch said the league’s statement “calls into question your commitment to genuine diversity and inclusion.”

“Does this inclusion include Catholics, pro-life Americans, mothers, and those who hold traditional moral beliefs?” Burch asked in the Thursday letter. “We certainly hope you will continue to ignore the reckless calls for Mr. Butker to be canceled, or worse.”

Catholic League President William Donohue accused the NFL of “stigmatizing” the kicker for “defending Catholic moral theology.”

Harrison Butker speaks for millions of Americans, not all of whom are Catholic,” Donohue said in a Friday letter to Mr. Goodell. “The contempt you have shown for him, Benedictine College and Catholicism is repugnant. You are also a classic phony.”

Since his speech, Butker, 28, has been slammed on social media as a “misogynist psycho,” “forced birther,” and “the most sexist man who ever lived.”

He was doxed by the official Kansas City account on X, which shared information about his residence. The city has since removed the post and apologized. Missouri Attorney General Andrew Bailey is investigating the incident.

Harrison Butker doesn’t represent Kansas City nor has he ever,” former Kansas City Commissioner Justice Horn wrote on X. “Kansas City has always been a place that welcomes, affirms, and embraces our LGBTQ+ community members.”

A petition on Change.org calling for the Chiefs to dismiss him for his “sexist, homophobic, anti-trans, anti-abortion and racist” remarks has gathered over 200,000 signatures, prompting CatholicVote to circulate its own “I Stand With Harrison Butker” petition.

Butker’s job is probably safe. Not only has he won three championships with the Chiefs, kicking the game-winning field goal two years ago in Super Bowl LVII, but he holds the record for the longest Super Bowl field goal (57 yards) and the most Super Bowl field goals (nine).

In addition, Clark Hunt and the Hunt family are known for their Christian beliefs.

Gracie Hunt, daughter of the Chiefs owner, said she appreciated her mother Tavia Hunt staying home with her and her siblings while acknowledging that not all women can make that choice.

“I really respect Harrison and his Christian faith and what he’s accomplished on and off the field,” Ms. Hunt said on “Fox and Friends.”

Tavia Hunt weighed in without mentioning Butker, saying Friday on Instagram that “society desperately needs dedicated men and women to raise up and train the next generation.”

“Affirming motherhood and praising your wife, as well as highlighting the sacrifice and dedication it takes to be a mother, is not bigoted,” said Mrs. Hunt. “It is empowering to acknowledge that a woman’s hard work in raising children is not in vain.”

• Valerie Richardson can be reached at vrichardson@washingtontimes.com.

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