San Francisco 49ers cornerback Chris Culliver had a helmet-to-helmet collision with karmic retribution on Sunday night. Of the 53 players suited up on the losing sideline of Super Bowl XLVII, perhaps none had a worse game than the second-year defensive back, who also had the worst PR week.
“I don’t do the gay guys man,” Culliver told Artie Lange ahead of the game. “I don’t do that. … We don’t got no gay people on the team, they gotta get up out of here if they do … Nah … can’t be … in the locker room man. Nah.”
Culliver’s reward? A game in which more than 100 million people tuned in to see him toasted on a long touchdown, receive a stiff arm to the face and be penalized at a crucial point for
heavy petting pass interference.
But here’s the thing: The Culliver Episode is a net positive for the LGBT community. The takeaway isn’t that there are still anti-gay bigots in the NFL, or in non-football life; no, the real takeaway here is that it’s no longer cool to hate the gays and be safe from instant, justified persecution.
The pendulum has swung. Homophobia, whatever that amorphous term truly means, is being stamped out of sports, one of the last bastions of acceptable non-otherness. Chicago Bulls forward Joakim Noah dropped an F bomb — the six-letter kind, not the four — and took a $50,000 hit. Commissioner David Stern dropped a $100,000 fine on Kobe Bryant for a similar infraction.
There was talk that Culliver would be suspended from the biggest game of his career, though thankfully he wasn’t — he got his just desserts in the form of all-out mockery, derision and the harsh limelight of poor play.
This is progress. For chiding gay people, you no longer get locker room high fives and, ironically, butt pats. It’s sensitivity training and 1,000 blogs writing about how you’re one of the biggest dickheads in sports.
Speak out against human rights, against one of the least legally protected groups in society, and YOU’RE the pariah. That’s relatively new. That’s objectively awesome. This is a good thing. Now the next time this happens, and it will, let’s not focus too much on the harsh words spoken and instead latch on to the prospect that society has our back now. We got this.