Kansas City Chiefs Player Gives The Year’s Most Controversial Commencement Speech

Relative to his teammates on the Kansas City Chiefs, kicker Harrison Butker enjoyed a relatively low national profile — until Saturday.

Butker delivered the commencement address at Benedictine College in Atchison, Kansas, on Saturday, in which he espoused a wide range of socially and politically conservative viewpoints that set off a firestorm of controversy. The backlash was loud enough, by Thursday, the NFL’s senior vice president and chief diversity and inclusion officer, Jonathan Beane, was compelled to disavow Butker’s remarks.

“His views are not those of the NFL as an organization,” Beane said in a widely distributed statement. “The NFL is steadfast in our commitment to inclusion, which only makes our league stronger.”

Inclusiveness was not the central theme of Butker’s speech.

“While COVID might have played a large role throughout your formative years, it is not unique,” Butker said. “Bad policies and poor leadership have negatively impacted major life issues. Things like abortion, IVF, surrogacy, euthanasia, as well as a growing support for degenerate cultural values in media, all stem from the pervasiveness of disorder.”

The airing of grievances continued from there, as Butker took umbrage with a wide range of issues, from President Joe Biden’s support for abortion rights, the “tyranny” of “diversity, equity, and inclusion,” and Catholic priests “who prioritize their hobbies or even photos with their dogs and matching outfits for the parish directory.”

Butker also referred to Pride Month, celebrated among the LGBTQ+ community and its allies every June, as “the deadly sin sort of pride that has an entire month dedicated to it.”

The speech referenced other Catholic conservative talking points that qualify as familiar rhetoric inside and outside the church, including women putting their roles as mothers ahead of their role in the workforce.

Responses to the message among fans were predictably polarized. Some flooded the Chiefs’ Instagram page with comments demanding a response from the team. Others put their money where their values are by buying Butker jerseys en masse.

LAS VEGAS, NEVADA – FEBRUARY 11: Harrison Butker #7 of the Kansas City Chiefs lines up his field goal during the NFL Super Bowl 58 football game between the San Francisco 49ers and the Kansas…

Michael Owens/Getty Images

Besides the divisive reactions, what set Butker’s speech apart was the league’s sharp response. Beane used his statement to clarify that Butker “gave a speech in his personal capacity,” as opposed to his capacity as an NFL player.

The 28-year-old attended Georgia Tech University, from which he graduated with a degree in industrial engineering in 2017. His family has a long professional history in higher education.

Butker’s maternal grandfather, oncologist James W. Keller, M.D., held an appointment at Emory University in Atlanta. He is still listed as a Professor Emeritus in the school’s Department of Radiation Oncology. Butker’s mother, Elizabeth Keller Butker, is a medical physicist at the school.