Dan Savage, founder of the “It Gets Better” video project, removed from the project’s website the first contribution to the series by a professional football team after two of the four players denied involvement.
— Dan Savage (@fakedansavage) February 1, 2013
“We’ve removed the #49ers #ItGetsBetter video from our website,” Savage tweeted Thursday after USA Today published an account of the confusing exchange between a reporter and linebacker Ahmad Brooks and nose tackle Isaac Sopoaga, in which they first deny taking part in the project before being shown the video. Both men will face off against the Baltimore Ravens in New Orleans on Sunday with the San Francisco 49ers in Super Bowl XLVII:
“I didn’t make any video,” Brooks said. “This is America and if someone wants to be gay, they can be gay. It’s their right. But I didn’t make any video.”
When told USA TODAY Sports had seen the video and he was in it, Brooks replied, “I don’t remember that. I think if I made a video, I’d remember it.”
He was shown the video on an iPhone.
“Oh, that. It was an anti-bullying video, not a gay [rights] video,” he said.
When told that studies show that the majority of teens who are bullied are harassed over sexual identity issues, Brooks thought for a second.
“I know that. I know that,” he said. “Okay, you’re right and I’m wrong. Are you from one of those New York newspapers?”
Brooks’ teammate Sopoaga also denied being in the video before backtracking after being shown the video.
“Yeah, you made that video, remember?” [teammate Will] Tukuafu said.
“No,” Sopoaga said. “I never went. And now someone is using my name.”
Sopoaga was shown the video.
“What was that for?” he asked.
To ask teens to stop bullying other teens because of sexual identity, he was told.
“Yeah, OK,” he said.
Would you like to comment on it, he was asked.
“No,” he said.
The controversy comes just days after 49ers cornerback Chris Culliver told radio personality Artie Lange that a gay player would not be welcome in the 49ers locker room, according to Yahoo Sports.
“I don’t do the gay guys man,” said Culliver.
“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.”
Later, when Lange asked if gay football players should stay in the closet while active in the pros, Culliver continued, “Yeah, come out 10 years later after that.”
“The derogatory comments I made yesterday were a reflection of thoughts in my head, but they are not how I feel,” Culliver said in a statement released by the 49ers. “It has taken me seeing them in print to realize that they are hurtful and ugly. Those discriminating feelings are truly not in my heart. Further, I apologize to those who I have hurt and offended, and I pledge to learn and grow from this experience.”
Former and current 49ers denounce Culliver’s statement
Culliver’s statements were denounced by recently outed former-49er Kwame Harris, who has been charged with domestic violence and assault causing great bodily harm, after allegedly attacking his boyfriend, Dimitri Grier in a restaurant parking lot during an argument.
“It’s surprising that in 2013 Chris Culliver would use his 15 minutes to spread vitriol and hate. I recognize that these are comments that he may come to regret and that he may come to see that gay people are not so different than straight people,” Harris told NBC. Harris’ ex-boyfriend Grier suffered broken bones around his eye sockets after the attack. Harris had not been revealed to be gay before the story came to light.
According to gay sports site Out Sports, the team was also quick to release a statement denouncing Culliver’s words.
“The San Francisco 49ers reject the comments that were made yesterday, and have addressed the matter with Chris,” the statement reads. “There is no place for discrimination within our organization at any level. We have and always will proudly support the LGBT community.”
Culliver’s comments are a far cry from much more supportive remarks made in December by 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh — brother of Ravens coach John Harbaugh — who told the team’s magazine he would welcome a gay player to San Francisco:
“I ask all players to play through their own personality and be who they are. What you ask of a player is to be a great teammate and be a good player. My expectations would be the same.”
Harbaugh went on to say, “Personally, there’s no discrimination in my heart.”
He also said that he believes most of the team would welcome a gay player, and his comments were echoed by 49ers players Larry Grant and Tarell Brown.
“At the end of the day, we are all family in this locker room, and we accept each player for whoever they are,” linebacker and San Francisco native Grant told the magazine.
“Whatever makes you happy, do it,” cornerback Brown said. “I just feel like, you shouldn’t hide it. At the end of the day don’t be embarrassed with what you are, or what you do. If you are that way, that’s you.”