Dear Chris Culliver,
Thank you from the bottom of my heart for sharing your ignorant, anti-gay thoughts just days before playing in the Super Bowl. You did the entire gay community a big favor by telling Artie Lange that you would not like having a gay player on your team.
The problem that those of us who are fighting for LGBT equality in sports have consistently run up against is that sports media simply aren't interested in reporting on our issues. When former 49er Kwame Harris was outed earlier this week, there was barely a peep out of the mainstream sports media.
But you broke through. Everybody loves a good villain, the the media love a good scandal, and you provided it. Now you've done what Brendon Ayanbadejo only promised to do: You made gay issues a centerpiece of the Super Bowl.
Yes, there are seriously negative consequences to the public spewing of your ignorance. Young gay athletes will hear your words and step deeper into the closet. Bullies who drive some of these gay youth to suicide will be emboldened by your words. This is exactly why you're being attacked on this from every side. Most Americans -- heck, most of your NFL brothers -- get it: What you said is damaging to sports and destructive to our culture.
The only place your language has in our society is to show how deeply ignorant, uneducated and hurtful that very language is.
And you've done that. You got the producers of Pardon the Interruption to make your comments and gay issues the lead topic on their show just four days before the Super Bowl! Other NFL players, like New York Giants tight end Martellus Bennett, have taken the opportunity to say very positive things. The gay community, with their powerful activists, are turning their attention to sports now more than ever. Sports Illustrated's SI.com, ESPN's ESPN.com and the league's very own NFL.com are all covering this issue.
You did what the other 105 guys on Super Bowl XLVII rosters couldn't do together if they all joined hands, stood at midfield in the Super Dome and chanted, "You can play! You can play!" You did what Outsports' articles about dozens of gay-friendly NFL players couldn't do. You did that. You're the new face of homophobia in sports.
So thank you.
Gay former NFL player Esera Tuaolo also thanks you. He played in a Super Bowl, too. He took to Facebook yesterday to eloquently express his thanks:
What can one say about it other then THANKS YOU IDIOT for bringing the Issue of Homophobia in the NFL to the front of the of the line, in this SUPER BOWL MEDIA FRENZY!! When I see you I will give you a Big Kiss Chris you Jackass..... Make's my job a lot easier you HOMOPHOBIC IDIOT. What you need is a lesson African American History......... If it wasn't for the leader that came before you, your ass wouldn't be playing the NFL...
When anyone does horrible things to gay people, it's an opportunity for the rest of society to look within themselves and say, "I might not love the fact that people are gay, but I don't agree with that guy." You give other people a strong barometer for homophobia. We experienced the same phenomenon in 2007, when Tim Hardaway said, "I hate gay people." It happens when gay teens kill themselves.
It happened when Matthew Shepard was brutally murdered. That was one of the first times America said, "That isn't OK under any circumstance." That was one of the first; your words are the latest.
I want to know where people stand on this issue. Homophobes are often scared to say the stuff you said. Part of me is glad that they don't say it more, because, like I said, it's damaging to kids. But on the other hand, now we know where you stand. Homophobia is still alive and well in some corners of sports; now we know one more corner that needs attention.
So where do we go from here? You've got the opportunity of a lifetime. The only thing America likes more than a good villain is a good story of redemption. You've got that chance here.
I understand that you probably haven't come into contact with many gay people in your life. It's not your fault. I don't think you were trying to hurt anyone with what you said, but you said what was on your mind... and you hurt some people.
Let's make it right together. Let's sit down. No cameras. Nobody trying to trick you into another "gotcha" moment. You and me, a white gay guy from California and a black pro athlete from the South. Let's sit down and talk. Too often we surround ourselves with people who are just like us. I want to know more about you and how you've gotten to this place, and I want to share a bit about myself, my partner and what it's like being gay.
You can even pick the place. I'll come to you. You want a five-star French restaurant? Italian? Soul? You name the time and place and I'll be there. We'll have a talk, and we'll share. It's the only way barriers get torn down.
Follow Cyd Zeigler on Twitter: www.twitter.com/cydzeigler