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Tuesday, July 29, 2014
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Published: Friday, 2/1/2013

Comments can be costly for athletes

BY DAVE HACKENBERG
BLADE SPORTS COLUMNIST

San Francisco cornerback Chris Culliver was the guest on some obscure TV show a couple days ago when the host asked him about his views on gay rights, particularly in professional sports. Culliver, while a pretty good player, wasn’t exactly a household name. He is now.

“I don’t do the gay guys, man,” he responded. “I don’t do that. No, we don’t got no gay people on the team, they gotta get up and out of here if they do. Can’t be with that sweet stuff. Nah, can’t be in the locker room, man. Nah.”

Well, Culliver did major in entertainment management at South Carolina. Of course, there’s nothing particularly entertaining about homophobia today in an inclusive society that is more open than ever to gay rights, even gay marriage and maybe even gay Boy Scouts.

Culliver’s comments were so infuriating that, after Sunday’s Super Bowl, he may be done as a 49er. Consider the liberal city in which the team plays; a mecca of sorts for the gay/lesbian/bisexual community.

Of course, his apology was equally nonsensical.

“The derogatory comments I made were a reflection of thoughts in my head, but they are not how I feel,” Culliver said in a statement. Really? Now, that’s some sweet stuff.

We’re only a month into the year, but Culliver has all but wrapped up our 2013 John Rocker Trophy.

Rocker, of course, is the former major league pitcher who was playing in Atlanta when he was asked about a possible trade to a New York team.

“I’d retire first,” he began, before continuing by describing a fun-filled subway/elevated train ride to the ballpark that even now, 13 years later, really can’t be printed verbatim in a family newspaper.

Let’s just say that before he reached his destination he had offended gays, women, blacks, and the non-English-speaking masses. To almost make it worse, he later described “the crap” he took for it by somehow comparing himself to Jackie Robinson and Hank Aaron and the racial abuse they received.

There is nothing funny about homophobic rants, delivered by athletes or by anybody.

There was a time, though, when “ignorant” sports comments simply meant unintentionally “funny” athletes.

Some of my favorites:

Former major leaguer Tito Fuentes, after being hit by a pitch — “They shouldn’t throw at me. I’m the father of five or six kids.”

Former NFL quarterback Joe Theisman: “Nobody in football should be called a genius. A genius is a guy like Norman Einstein.”

One-time college basketball player Chuck Nevitt, struggling with the gender issue: “My sister’s expecting a baby and I don’t know if I’m going to be an uncle or an aunt.”

Ex-Saints running back George Rogers: “I want to rush for 1,000 or 1,500 yards, whichever comes first.”

Dennis (Oil Can) Boyd, former pitcher, after having a start postponed because of fog at old Municipal Stadium in Cleveland: “That’s what they get for building a ballpark on the ocean.”

Ex-NBA player Charles Shackleford: “I can go right; I can go left. I’m amphibious.”

Then there was TV analyst Doug Collins doing a Pistons game: “Anytime Detroit scores more than 100 points and holds the other team below 100 points, they almost always win.”

Almost always.

Unfortunately, when ignorant athletes open their mouths these days we almost always cringe.

Contact Blade sports columnist Dave Hackenberg at: dhack@theblade.com or 419-724-6398.



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