Chris Culliver got the third degree on Thursday. (Doug Farrar)
NEW ORLEANS -- San Francisco 49ers cornerback Chris Culliver created quite the ruckus this week when he intimated that anyone with a homosexual predilection would not be welcome on his team. Now, he's doing everything he can to get past that.
According to his publicist, Theodore Palmer, Culliver will be working with "The Trevor Project," an organization that provides crisis and suicide intervention to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender youth.
"He's so passionate about youth and people being comfortable with who they are and accepted by all," Palmer said in a phone interview with the Associated Press on Saturday. "He's excited to learn. The plan is with The Trevor Project, and their concerns are that he is genuine about his words."
Their concerns should be exactly that. Tuesday, on the "Artie Lange Show," Culliver had this to say when Lange asked him how he felt about the possibility of a gay teammate.
''I don't do the gay guys, man. I don't do that. got no gay people on the team. They gotta get up outta here if they do. Can't be with that sweet stuff ... Can't be ... in the locker room, nah,'' he said. ''You've gotta come out 10 years later after that.''
On Thursday, Culliver sat at a table in the 49ers' media room at a Marriott in downtown New Orleans and tried to explain the furor away. He released a perfunctory statement before he met with the media, and his actual comments on Wednesday fell short of the mark on the conviction scale.
''The derogatory comments I made yesterday were a reflection of thoughts in my head, but they are not how I feel,'' he said the statement. ''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.''
Asked by the media about it, Culliver tried an about-face.
"I was really just ... not thinking," Culliver said on Thursday morning when asked what his mindset was what he made those remarks. "It was something that I thought, but definitely not something I feel in my heart."
And when he was asked if he would support a gay teammate, Culliver paused -- a silence that seemed to speak volumes -- and managed a lukewarm "If it is ... it is. We're all treated equally in the locker room."
Culliver later said that he really does want to be convincing about this. "I hope people understand because it's coming directly from me and I'm talking to the whole world. It is not (how I feel) in my heart."
The 49ers, who play in one of the most tolerant cities in the world, quickly distanced themselves from his comments. Team CEO Jed York has vowed to take Culliver to groups in the Bay Area's LGBT community, and head coach Jim Harbaugh put a very fine point on his feelings about his cornerback's thoughts.
"We reject what he said," Harbaugh said on Thursday morning, just before Culliver talked with the media. "That in no way reflects how the organization feels, and how most of the players feel. His impact going forward on the team is something we'll think about. He will learn from it, he made a statement, and he pledged to grow from it. We hope it will affect him in a positive way going forward."
If that's possible, it will be because Culliver is mandated to get in front of what he sees as a problem and get a new perspective on things. Kudos to the 49ers in that regard for setting this up, because I'm going to go out on a limb and assume that Culliver didn't offer to work with "The Trevor Project" himself.
Maybe Culliver is smart enough to turn himself around and use the mess he created as a starting point to help someone who needs it. At the very least, he'll think twice -- and the rest of the NFL will think at least twice -- before popping off so recklessly on that issue again.
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