Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes Defends Harrison Butker Following Commencement Speech Controversy

Ryan Morgan
By Ryan Morgan
May 23, 2024Sports News
Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes Defends Harrison Butker Following Commencement Speech Controversy
Patrick Mahomes speaks onstage during the 2024 TIME100 Gala at Jazz at Lincoln Center in New York on April 25, 2024. (Cindy Ord/Getty Images for TIME)

Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes defended his teammate, Harrison Butker, from backlash after expressing politically conservative and socially traditional views at a recent Catholic college commencement speech.

“I’ve known Harrison. I’ve known him for seven years. And I judge him by the character that he shows every single day, and that’s a good person,” Mr. Mahomes said during a press conference on Wednesday.

“That’s someone who cares about the people around them, cares about his family, and wants to make a good impact in society,” Mr. Mahomes said of the teammate, a kicker, with whom he has won three Super Bowls.

The National Football League quarterback went on to say he doesn’t “necessarily agree with” some of Mr. Butker’s views, but “at the same time, I’m going to judge him by the character that he shows every single day; that’s a great person, and we’ll continue to move along and try to help build each other up, to make ourselves better every single day.”

A reporter at the press conference asked Mr. Mahomes to elaborate on the views he disagrees with Mr. Butker, but Mr. Mahomes declined to get into those specifics.

“There’s just certain values that you have, that some people emphasize more than others, and there’s just certain things that I–that I didn’t necessarily agree with,” Mr. Mahomes said. “But at the same time, I’m not going to judge him by that. I judge him by the way he acts every single day, and I’m not going to get into the full details of the entire speech.”

Butker’s Commencement Speech

Mr. Butker, who is Catholic, addressed the Benedictine College, a Catholic school in Atchison, Kansas, in a May 11 commencement speech. The football player used the speech to touch on a variety of topics.

At points during the speech, Mr. Butker criticized President Joe Biden, who is also Catholic, for his stance on abortion.

The leadership of the Catholic church has, throughout history, held moral opposition to the practice of abortion. The Catholic Holy See’s 1974 Declaration on Procured Abortion, for instance, describes abortion as “a grave sin against the natural law.”

“Our own nation is led by a man who publicly and proudly proclaims his Catholic faith, but at the same time is delusional enough to make the Sign of the Cross during a pro-abortion rally,” Mr. Butker said, referencing President Biden during his May 11 speech. “He has been so vocal in his support for the murder of innocent babies that I’m sure to many people it appears that you can be both Catholic and pro-choice.”

The Sign of the Cross is a gesture within Christianity, and common throughout Catholic tradition, to signify one’s faith. President Biden appeared to make the gesture while standing beside Florida Democratic Party Chair Nikki Fried during an April 24 political rally as she discussed abortion laws in the state.

Mr. Butker also used the speech to touch on the roles of men and women in the home and the workplace.

“I think it is you, the women, who have had the most diabolical lies told to you. How many of you are sitting here now about to cross this stage and are thinking about all the promotions and titles you are going to get in your career?” Butker said, addressing the women in the crowd. “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.”

Mr. Butker said his wife, Isabelle, “would be the first to say that her life truly started when she began living her vocation as a wife and as a mother.” Mr. Butker said his wife has embraced her role as the primary educator of their children and has helped ensure that “I never let football or my business become a distraction from that of a husband and father.”

Mr. Butker went on to address the men in the crowd, saying that “part of what plagues our society is this lie that has been told to you that men are not necessary in the home or in our communities.” Mr. Butker decried the rate of absentee fathers within the United States.

Mr. Butker also appeared to denounce a bill recently passed in the U.S. House of Representatives regarding the definition of “antisemitism.”

“We fear speaking truth, because now, unfortunately, truth is in the minority,” Mr. Butker said. “Congress just passed a bill where stating something as basic as the biblical teaching of who killed Jesus could land you in jail.”

The House recently passed legislation that calls on U.S. government agencies to take into consideration the working definition of “antisemitism” set by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA), when considering policy decisions and enforcement of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. The IHRA currently employs a working definition of “antisemitism” that includes referencing the role of Biblical Jews in the death of Jesus Christ.

The New Testament gospels state that members of the Jewish priesthood called for the Roman government to crucify Jesus Christ, to which the Roman Governor Pontius Pilate washed his hands and told the priests, “I am innocent of this man’s blood; it is your responsibility,” before approving their request for crucifixion. Various Christian sects have preached throughout history that the Jewish people are cursed or collectively responsible for the crucifixion, though that view has fallen out of favor in many Christian sects, including the Catholic Church after Pope Paul VI renounced the teaching in a 1965 declaration.

The new antisemitism bill, which has not gone beyond the House of Representatives, does not include jailing those who run afoul of the IHRA’s definition of antisemitism.

The NFL Senior Vice President and Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer Jonathan Beane distanced the league from Mr. Butker’s commencement speech, stating Mr. Butker was speaking in his personal capacity and not necessarily representing the league’s views or values.

“His views are not those of the NFL as an organization,” Mr. Beane said. “The NFL is steadfast in our commitment to inclusion, which only makes our league stronger.”

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