Advertisement

Chiefs' Harrison Butker blasted for commencement speech encouraging women to be homemakers

Kansas City Chiefs kicker Harrison Butker has aggravated one of the internet's biggest culture wars by telling a class of college graduates that one of the “most important” titles a woman can hold is homemaker.

During a commencement speech last weekend at Benedictine College, a Catholic liberal arts school in Atchison, Kansas, the NFL player railed against abortion, Pride month and Covid-19 lockdown measures.

Drawing the most viral backlash this week, however, was a section of his speech in which he addressed the female graduates specifically — telling them that it’s women who have had “the most diabolical lies” told to them.

“How many of you are sitting here now, about to cross this stage, and are thinking about all the promotions and titles you are going to get in your career? Some of you may go on to lead successful careers in the world,” Butker said. “But I would venture to guess that the majority of you are most excited about your marriage and the children you will bring into this world.”

The criticisms that followed took aim at Butker as well as the NFL.

Harrison Butker. (Charlie Riedel / AP file)
Harrison Butker. (Charlie Riedel / AP file)

"Hey @NFL — If you want to continue to grow your female fan base and any other marginalized group (straight white men are already watching your product), come get your boy," wrote Lisa Guerrero, a former NFL sideline reporter and now an investigative journalist for "Inside Edition."

He went on to tell the graduates that his wife would agree that her life “truly started when she began living her vocation as a wife and as a mother.” It is her embrace of this role, he said, that made his own professional success possible.

Butker’s comments share similarities with some of the more extreme ideas around gender roles that have gained traction in communities that promote “tradwife” lifestyles or other relationship dynamics that center on traditional gender roles.

“Listen, there’s nothing wrong with his wife being a homemaker. Homemakers are wonderful, that’s not the point,” filmmaker Michael McWhorter, known by his more than 6 million TikTok followers as TizzyEnt, said in a video response. “The point is he seemed to be acting as if you should be ashamed if you don’t want to be a homemaker, or, ‘I know what you really want to do is just stay home and have babies.’"

The speech was the latest incident to add fuel to the flames of this increasingly vocal cultural battle, much of which is playing out online. While many prominent right-wing men have voiced such beliefs before, they’re usually confined to internet forums, podcasts and other online communities where these ideologies thrive.

A spokesperson for Butker did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Benedictine College and the Kansas City Chiefs did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

A spokesperson for the NFL told People Magazine that Butker "gave a speech in his personal capacity" and his "views are not those of the NFL as an organization."

"The NFL is steadfast in our commitment to inclusion, which only makes our league stronger," a spokesperson told the publication.

Butker, who is teammates with Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce, further drew surprise and criticism when he quoted Kelce’s girlfriend, Taylor Swift, whose monumental career success as a global pop star has inspired college courses.

“As my teammate’s girlfriend says, ‘familiarity breeds contempt,’” he said, drawing murmurs from the crowd as he used the “Bejeweled” lyric as an analogy for why Catholic priests should not become “overly familiar” with their parishioners.

In the days since his speech, a Change.org petition for the Chiefs to dismiss Butker for “discriminatory remarks” has garnered nearly 19,000 signatures.

“These comments reinforce harmful stereotypes that threaten social progress,” the petition stated. “They create a toxic environment that hinders our collective efforts towards equality, diversity and inclusion in society. It is unacceptable for such a public figure to use their platform to foster harm rather than unity.”

Those who criticized Butker’s speech online include actor Bradley Whitford as well as DJ and rapper (and self-proclaimed Swiftie) Flavor Flav.

But his speech was also lauded by some on the religious right, including conservative sports media personalities such as Clay Travis and Jason Whitlock, who defended Butker’s statements toward women.

“Not a word Harrison Butker says here should be remotely controversial. He’s 100% correct,” former NFL wide receiver T.J. Moe posted on X. “Those trying to convince women that being assistant VP of lending & intentionally childless at age 40 is more fulfilling than making a family and home are evil.”

Sports and culture commentator Jon Root also posted that Butker “exposed the lies that the world has been telling women.” Women, he wrote, are wrongly encouraged to climb the corporate ladder, view children as a “burden” and see marriage as “not worth pursuing.”

Still, a deluge of viewers online took issue with his attitude toward women and the LGBTQ community. Many women also rejected the premise that they would be happier staying at home in lieu of paid work, even if they do have a husband and children.

“I am moved. I actually had no idea that my life began when I met my husband,” neurosurgeon Betsy Grunch, known as Ladyspinedoc on TikTok, said sarcastically in a TikTok video. “It did not begin when I graduated magna cum laude from the University of Georgia with honors. It certainly did not begin when I graduated with a 4.0 GPA, Alpha Omega Alpha, from medical school. And I had no idea that it did not begin when I completed my residency in neurosurgery.”

This article was originally published on NBCNews.com