The San Francisco 49ers earned a lot of goodwill at the start of the season when they became the first NFL team to tape an "It Gets Better" spot. Designed to encourage hope and acceptance among gay teens who are being bullied, the "It Gets Better" website features hundreds of videos from teams, groups and individuals eager to voice their support.
One video that's no longer posted? The one the 49ers filmed in 2012.
Movement co-founder Dan Savage made the decision to pull the video after linebacker Ahmad Brooks and tackle Isaac Sopoaga strangely denied their involvement with "It Gets Better" when asked about it by Kevin Manahan of USA Today on Thursday afternoon. After being shown the video, the players then claimed ignorance of the ad's intentions and refused comment.
That's not exactly the type of look a team wants to give off when one of its members — defensive back Chris Culliver — aired his controversial thoughts about gay players being welcomed in the NFL. And especially not when it plays in one of the most gay-friendly cities in the world.
From USA Today:
Sopoaga, too, denied making the video, even while teammate Will Tukuafu, who overheard the question, tried to refresh his memory.
"Yeah, you made that video, remember?" 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.
If you watch the video, you can see the players don't do that good of a job masking the fact they're reading their message straight off a cue card. And in their defense, neither Brooks nor Sopoaga read anything that contained the words "lesbian," "gay," "bisexual," or "transgendered." At least not in the video.
But why were they so defensive? One can understand that they didn't want to be swept into a Culliver-level controversy but their involvement in the ad — whether they realized it before the interview or not — was a positive action and certainly not something that could be taken out of context.
It's also worth wondering why "It Gets Better" would take down the video when two other players — Donte Whitner and Ricky Jean Francois — took their time to stand up and speak out for the cause. Maybe their levels of conviction weren't that high either, but it's worth an more complete investigation.
Whatever the case, this is a good, if sad example that public service announcements aren't total evidence of someone's dedication to a cause. While it's sad to say that we have to be more suspicious about rubber stamping every good deed that comes across our desk, it appears to be the case.