America’s National Football League (NFL) is grappling with the uncomfortable question of homophobia in its culture after San Francisco 49ers cornerback Chris Culliver expressed an aversion to homosexuality during a radio interview just days before the Superbowl.
In a radio interview with Fox Sports broadcaster Artie Lange on Tuesday, Culliver said that gay people were not welcome on the team, and encouraged any players who were secretly gay to leave.
“I don’t do the gay guys man,” Culliver said when questioned on how he would feel about playing with a gay team-mate.
“Can’t be with that sweet stuff…in the locker room, man. Nah. Come out ten years later after that.”
The 49ers, who face off against the Baltimore Ravens in Super Bowl XLVII on Sunday, released a statement on Wednesday saying they “rejected” Culliver’s comments and were addressing the matter with him.
“There is no place for discrimination within our organization at any level. We have and always will proudly support the LGBT community,” the 49ers said.
The 49ers became the first NFL team to take part in the ‘It Gets Better’ anti-homophobia campaign, making a video in support of young LGBTI people who were experiencing bullying at school.
Culliver will face off against Baltimore Ravens linebacker Brendan Ayanbadejo, who came to prominence in September last year as the first NFL player to publicly advocate for same-sex marriage in the lead-up to a ballot on the issue in Maryland.
There has never been an openly gay player in the NFL’s 93-year history, although several players since the 1970s have revealed their sexuality after retirement.