Travis Kelce responds to Harrison Butker’s commencement speech

Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce watches a college basketball game between Kansas and Kansas State Tuesday, Jan. 31, 2023, in Lawrence, Kan.
Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce watches a college basketball game between Kansas and Kansas State Tuesday, Jan. 31, 2023, in Lawrence, Kan. | Charlie Riedel

Travis Kelce on Friday became the latest member of the Kansas City Chiefs to weigh in on the controversy surrounding kicker Harrison Butker’s commencement speech.

On his “New Heights” podcast, he said he won’t judge Butker for what he said at Benedictine College and will, instead, stay focused on their strong relationship as teammates.

“I can’t say I agree with the majority of it or just about any of it outside of him just loving his family and his kids,” Kelce said. “I don’t think I should judge him by his views, especially his religious views.”

The star tight end added that he’s known from a young age that being exposed to a diversity of views is part of the beauty of life.

There were “different social classes, different religions, different races and ethnicities in Cleveland Heights,” he said. “I appreciate every single one of those people for different reasons, and never once did I feel like I needed to judge them off their beliefs.”

Kelce’s comments echoed the remarks made Wednesday by his coach and quarterback.

Andy Reid emphasized the team’s focus on respecting everyone’s right to have a voice, while Mahomes spoke about judging Butker by their in-person relationship, not what he said in the speech, as the Deseret News previously reported.

“I judge him by the character that he shows every single day, and that’s a good person, that’s someone who cares about the people around him, cares about his family and wants to make a good impact on society,” Mahomes said.

Butker’s commencement speech

Butker delivered the speech on May 11 and received a standing ovation from graduates and their loved ones.

But as clips from it began circulating on social media, he faced intense pushback from some viewers over his comments on at-times contentious issues like LGBTQ rights, the COVID-19 pandemic, abortion and motherhood.

Some people were particularly angered by his message to female graduates. He commented that they were likely looking forward to marriage and motherhood and spoke at-length about the beauty of being a homemaker, praising his wife for all she’s done for him and their kids.

Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce kisses his brother, Philadelphia Eagles center Jason Kelce after a game Sunday, Sept. 17, 2017.
Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce, left, kisses his brother, Philadelphia Eagles center Jason Kelce (62) after they exchanged jerseys following an NFL football game in Kansas City, Mo., Sunday, Sept. 17, 2017. The Kansas City Chiefs won 27-20. (AP Photo/Ed Zurga) | Ed Zurga, Associated Press

As Travis Kelce’s brother, Jason, noted during the “New Heights” episode, some took those comments to mean that Butker believed the female graduates shouldn’t use their degrees. But he said that the kicker was at least partly misunderstood since the video clips and social media debates were missing context.

“He’s giving a commencement speech at a Catholic university and — shocker — it ended up being a very religious and Catholic speech,” Jason Kelce said.

He added that he’s raising his own daughters to be able to listen to someone’s comments and take bits of pieces of value from them rather than treat a commencement speech like marching orders.

“I can listen to somebody talk and take great value in it ... while also acknowledging that not everybody has to be a homemaker in life,” Jason Kelce said.

He later added, “I don’t think we have enough people talking about the foundations of families and the importance and seriousness of parenthood.”

Similarly, Travis Kelce noted that people don’t have to be traditional homemakers to create a beautiful home.

“My mother and father both provided for our family and both my mother and father made home what it was. So they were homemakers and they were providers and they were unbelievable about being present every single day in my life. That was a beautiful upbringing for me.”

Harrison Butker
Kansas City Chiefs place kicker Harrison Butker talks to the media before an NFL football workout Friday, Feb. 3, 2023, in Kansas City, Mo. | Charlie Riedel

What did Harrison Butker say about Taylor Swift?

Travis Kelce’s comments are notable not just because he works with Butker, but also because Butker’s speech included a reference to Kelce’s girlfriend, Taylor Swift.

While reflecting on why it’s a problem for Catholic priests to get too close to their parishioners, Butker said, “This undue familiarity will prove to be problematic every time, because as my teammate’s girlfriend says, familiarity breeds contempt.”

Swift uses that line in the song “Bejeweled.”