This is why the Kansas City Chiefs need to do something about Harrison Butker

Kansas City Chiefs Patrick Mahomes Harris Butker Travis Kelce
Kansas City Chiefs Patrick Mahomes Harris Butker Travis Kelce

The job of an NFL kicker is perhaps one of the quirkiest in sports. While the rest of the team — sans the punter — gets beat up during four quarters pounding into each other on the line of scrimmage, a kicker can leave the field at the end of the game without a blemish.

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Kickers are also the most misunderstood players in the NFL because they can sometimes go an entire game without any consequential impact on a game. Those who kick for teams without strong offenses are likely to camp out on the sidelines without lifting a finger, or a leg in this case.

And kickers, good ones, can be indispensable, not quite as valuable as a quarterback, but kickers can have just as much effect on a game as a quarterback, particularly close games. Kickers are among the most unheralded players on the field. To put that in perspective, there are four placekickers in the NFL Hall of Fame as of 2023. By comparison, there are 36 quarterbacks.

You’ve probably never heard of Jan Stenerud and Morten Andersen, two of the greatest kickers of all time. But you know who legendary quarterbacks Terry Bradshaw and Joe Montana are for sure.

Kickers can leave a game as the most celebrated player on the field after a game-winning field goal or extra point, or the most loathed person in a stadium if they don’t make it.

This is where Harrison Butker comes in. He kicked the game-winning field goal for the Kansas City Chiefs when they beat the Philadelphia Eagles in Super Bowl LVII in 2023. Butker is also one of the top NFL kickers in the league, and an integral part of the Chiefs' success for the last seven years that include three Chiefs Super Bowl wins, this year, and in 2020 and 2023.

During this year’s Super Bowl, Butker broke two records, with the longest field goal in Super Bowl history (57 yards, which is quite a kick) and the most career field goals in Super Bowl history with nine. As a kicker, Butker is impressive.

However, more recently, Butker has made unimpressive headlines, not by putting his foot behind a ball, but by putting his foot in his mouth, with his abhorrent commencement address at Benedictine College over the weekend that targeted our community as well as women.

As we reported, in his speech, he said that there were “dangerous gender ideologies.” And he went after Pride Month, with his twisted tongue, “Not the deadly sins sort of Pride that has an entire month dedicated to it, but the true God-centered pride that is cooperating with the holy ghost to glorify him.”

And for all those who strive to live their life like scenes out of “Handmaid’s Tale,” he said this, “I think it is you, the women, who have had the most diabolical lies told to you. Some of you may go on to lead successful careers in the world, 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.”

He also went after President Biden being a Catholic and pro-choice. And when the Chiefs went to the White House to be honored after winning the Super Bowl, he wore a pro-life tie in front of Biden.

To be somewhat fair, Butker and his wife have endured three miscarriages, so his anti-abortion stance is perhaps personal, and if he’s anti-reproductive rights, then that’s his business. He is staunchly Roman Catholic, more in the vain of the “we don’t want you if you’re different” Pope Benedict than the “I guess we’ll have you” Pope Francis.

His very public anti-abortion stance, taken as a whole, with his thoughts about women belonging at home as housewives, sounds tone-deaf coming from a man, and an athlete no less. Besides all that, what he said does not belong in a commencement speech. It’s more suited for a keynote speech at CPAC, the right-wing Conservative Political Action Committee.

The NFL, for years, has been obsessed with trying to not only lure more women fans. It has also tried to improve its reputation among women, given the league’s outsized and dismal history with its players' sexual assaults against women. Comments like Butker’s don’t go well in trying to illustrate to women that the league supports them.

Further, the league has been on somewhat of a hiring frenzy for women. According to a recent Associated Press report, 223 women are working in full-time coaching or football operations roles in the NFL, a 141 percent gain since 2020. These women most certainly are not happy with what Butker thinks about their working situations.

Butker’s attitude and words also aimed at our community. The league has tripped over itself with LGBTTQ+ outreach initiatives, like its partnership with the Trevor Project and its loose support of the National Gay Flag Football League.

With the retirement of Carl Nassib last year, the league has zero out queer players. The NFL has a long way to go for players to feel comfortable and accepted in the league, and Butker’s exclusionary exaltations won’t do anything to help boost the league’s abysmal LGBTQ+ record.

Now, here’s the tricky part, what does the league do with Butker? Or does it do anything? And for that matter, what do the Chief’s do? Butker is entitled to his free speech rights; however, when they foster discrimination, a line needs to be drawn.

Missouri’s record on LGBTQ+ issues is atrocious. Late last year, the state’s Republican legislatures filed more than 20 anti-LGBTQ+ laws. And just this week, while Butker was stoking hate, a Republican candidate for Secretary of State posted an offensive campaign ad that pleads with voters not to be “weak and gay.”

When considering what to do about Butker, the Chiefs need to take into consideration the hate bouncing around the state, and how Butker’s comments perpetuate that hate. They will be damned if they fine or suspend him, and damned if they don’t. And for the Chiefs, it’s about money too. Not so much about how much Butker who reportedly makes around $4 million a year – modest for a kicker, but how reprimanding Butker will affect the cash flow from the fan base.

In situations like this, it’s always best to err on the side of doing what’s right, rather than what will be less costly. And that comes with consequences, but in the long run it would serve the Chiefs best to come down hard on Butker. Most people don’t agree with what he said according to most polls on abortion rights and LGBTQ+ rights.

As for the league, Commissioner Roger Goodell is a solid queer ally, and one of the reasons is because his brother is gay. But this is more of a Chiefs’ problem at the moment; however, the NFL did the right thing late yesterday releasing a statement that basically said there’s no room for Butker’s antiquated beliefs and non-inclusive hate speech in a 21st century NFL.

Finally Butker’s teammates are Patrick Mahomes, the best quarterback in the league, and Travis Kelce, better known as Taylor Swift’s better half. It won’t be long before Mahomes and Kelce get roped into this controversy. The Swiftees are already making it known that they want no part of Butker. This is likely to mushroom if swift (No pun intended) action isn’t taken.

At the end of the day, while kickers are integral to the success of a team, they can be replaced, more easily than a quarterback. If nothing is done to address what Butker said, his comments will continue to be a distraction for the Chiefs, and that more than anything will affect their chances of winning and repeating as Super Bowl champions. And that will hurt the team’s bottom line.

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