Sports still playing catchup on tolerance

OPINION

  • San Francisco cornerback Chris Culliver made it clear Wednesday that gays are unwelcome in his locker room.
San Francisco cornerback Chris Culliver made it clear Wednesday that gays… (MCT photo )
January 30, 2013|By Matt Lindner | For RedEye

Odds are 49ers defensive back Chris Culliver has shared a locker room with a homosexual, even if they have been closeted. At Super Bowl media day Tuesday, he made it clear that he’d rather those teammates keep their feelings to themselves.

"I don't do the gay guys man," Culliver reportedly told comedian turned shock jock Artie Lange on his radio show. "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. Can't be with that sweet stuff. Nah ... can't be ... in the locker room man. Nah."

You’d think a guy who has likely done hundreds of interviews over the course of his career would be smart enough not to say something so incredibly stupid and insensitive even if, deep down, that’s the way he feels. You’d be wrong.

For as far as we have come as a society when it comes to accepting each other as human beings regardless of sexual preference, along comes a guy like 49ers reserve defensive back Chris Culliver to remind us that professional sports still has a long way to go.

As deplorable as Culliver’s comments are, they come about a week after an equally disgusting incident wherein Katie Couric asked Manti Te’o if he was gay in light of the fake girlfriend hoax, and he responded by saying: "No. Far from it. Faaaaar from it," as the studio audience laughed.

Both men’s comments and attitudes are an indication of a larger problem within the sports world, wherein the six-letter "F" word and "homo" are still used as terms of derision when it comes to putting down an opponent, where homosexuality is arguably more verboten than beating your spouse or getting caught doing drugs.

Here’s the thing though -- why?

What does it matter if someone who is good at catching a ball or making a tackle chooses to date someone who happens to be of the same gender?

Culliver isn’t the problem. He's far from the only athlete who feels the way he does. He put himself in the spotlight by being the one dumb enough to express his opinions on a huge stage.

The way both athletes responded is as clear an indication that we’re still a long way from having an openly gay professional athlete. That's a shame too.

Matt Lindner is a RedEye special contributor.

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