KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Kansas City Chiefs kicker Harrison Butker is one of America’s most famous faces of the conservative Catholic faith.

After the Chiefs won the Super Bowl last season, Butker spent a week at a monastery for silence, prayer, and reflection. He has also appeared in advertisements for the nonprofit Catholic Vote, encouraging Kansans to vote for the Value Them Both Amendment that would have restricted abortions in Kansas in 2022.

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Butker has also partnered with Hallow, a subscription service that gives users a wide selection of prayers to listen to in their daily routines, and through the Meditations for Athletes series, listeners can listen to Butker.

Butker even gifted his jersey to the family of local DJ Lisa Lopez-Galvan, the lone death of the shooting at the Chiefs’ Super Bowl parade and rally.

And the Georgia Tech alum gave a commencement speech to his alma mater last year telling graduates to “get married and start a family” as an antidote to anxiety.

So when Butker was tabbed to be the commencement speaker at private, liberal arts, Catholic Benedictine College in Atchison, Kansas, it sounded like a no-brainer. Psychology graduate Joslyn Lewis has seen Butker speak on campus before and knew about his strong Catholic background.

She said his speeches were mostly mild in content.

“In 2022, he came and gave a speech and it was along the lines of some Catholic beliefs, but it wasn’t that extreme,” Lewis said.

“I was actually really excited. I was like, you know, of course they’re going to bring someone with their same beliefs to come on here and just give a speech, but I just didn’t realize that it was going to have an agenda behind it.”

Butker was only 30 seconds into his speech before he pointed out how, “bad leaders who don’t stay in their lane can have a negative impact on society,” in regards to how the graduating class made it through the COVID-19 pandemic.

“While COVID might have played a large role throughout your formative years, it is not unique,” Butker said.

“Bad policies and poor leadership have negatively impacted major life issues, things like abortion, IVF, surrogacy, euthanasia, as well as a growing support for degenerate cultural values and media, all stem from the pervasiveness of disorder.”

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Butker aimed at President Joe Biden, a Roman Catholic, for his participation at an abortion rally.

“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,” he said.

Butker, 28, went on to criticize Biden for COVID lockdowns, supporting abortion rights and, “pushing dangerous gender ideologies onto the youth of America” in a reference to the LGBTQ community.

COVID-19 has killed nearly 1.2 million people in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“Not the deadly sins sort of Pride that has an entire month dedicated to it,” Butker said, “but the true God-centered pride that is cooperating with the holy ghost to glorify him.”

That comment was met with laughter from the crowd.

Butker also expressed his opinion that the “absence of men in the home is what plays a large role in the violence we see all around the nation.” He expressed these same sentiments when he spoke with EWTN News about the Super Bowl parade shooting.

“Other countries do not have nearly the same absentee father rates as we find here in the U.S. and a correlation can be made in their drastically lower violence rates as well,” Butker said. “Be unapologetic in your masculinity, fighting against the cultural emasculation of men.”

This is another reference to the LGBTQ+ community.

“Do hard things, and never settle for what is easy. You might have a talent that you don’t necessarily enjoy. But if it glorifies God, maybe you should lean into that over something that you might think suits you better.”

Pride Month, a month dedicated to celebrating lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer people, has been celebrated in June since the Stonewall riots in 1969. The Stonewall riots were a series of riots for gay liberation that took place over several days beginning on June 28, 1969, in New York City.

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BlaqOut is Kansas City’s first and only nonprofit devoted to improving healthcare access and creating a safe space for Kansas City’s Black LGBTQ+ community. For its founder and CEO, D. Rashaan Gilmore, these views are not just opinions, they are dangerous.

“Nobody was spared,” Gilmore said with laughter while recycling the comments back in his head. “The thing that was the most galling for me was that he thinks that what he said was courageous. That wasn’t courageous nor was it bold. What is bold, what is courageous, what takes true bravery, is to show up each and every day in society, in your own life as who you fully are, as your full self. And that’s what so many trans and queer people in this community and all over, do.”

Last week, Kansas City hosted the American Hospital Association’s Accelerating Health Equity Conference which brings together professionals focused on improving community and population health and building partnerships, and professionals striving to advance diversity and inclusion within hospital management and executive levels. BlaqOut’s headquarters, the BlaqBox, hosted some of the attendees of the conference.

“At a time when we had some representatives from the Human Rights Campaign and others in celebrating the fact that Kansas City scores really highly on its index of municipalities that are supposed to be LGBT-affirming, I don’t feel that way today,” he said.

KC Mayor Quinton Lucas posted on X, formerly known as Twitter, stating that he understands Butker has a right to his opinion.

“Grown folks have opinions, even if they play sports. I disagree with many, but I recognize our right to different views,” Lucas said. “Nobody should have to stick to anything. Varied and shall I say—diverse—viewpoints help the world go round.”

Gilmore argues “That sort of ambiguity and opaqueness from political leaders is so dangerous because these sorts of viewpoints end up becoming codified into law.”

“When you have a platform on top of having those kinds of views, then it becomes even more dangerous,” Gilmore continued.

“Because what happens is it emboldens others who hold similar views and who may be in positions to inflict harm because of the role that they may have in society. It opens up the doorway for others and there have been too many examples of that.”

The kicker’s 20-minute speech also criticized the leaders of his own Catholic faith by stating that priests become “overly familiar” with their parishioners. He also used a Taylor Swift lyric to emphasize his point and referred to her as, “my teammate’s girlfriend” in reference to Swift and Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce.

“This undue familiarity will prove to be problematic every time because as my teammate’s girlfriend says ‘familiarity breeds contempt,’” he said in reference to Swift’s song “Bejeweled.”

Butker criticized an Associated Press article on America’s Catholic Church, which detailed the institution’s shift “toward the old ways.” The article spoke highly of Benedictine’s rules that “seem like precepts of a bygone age,” which include “volunteering for 3 a.m. prayers” and “pornography, premarital sex and sunbathing in swimsuits being forbidden.”

“When you embrace tradition, success, worldly and spiritual, will follow,” Butker said.

In October 2014, the school ordered basketball player Jallen Messersmith to remove a Pride flag from his dorm room window.

Butker’s address to the women in the audience may have been the most inflammatory for Lewis, who sat in the audience looking at her fellow graduates in shock. Butker got teared up speaking about his wife and one of her “most important titles: homemaker”.

“I think it is you, the women, who have had the most diabolic lies told to you,” Butker said. “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. I can tell you that my beautiful wife, Isabelle, would be the first to say her life truly started when she started living her vocation as a wife and as a mother.”

Lewis is not Catholic, but played volleyball at Benedictine and chose the college because she felt that the professors cared about her as a person.

“It’s never really been, ‘You have to believe in this to be here.” It was more of a, ‘we will meet you where you’re at,’” she said.

The pandemic delayed her high school graduation, so Lewis looked forward to receiving her diploma after all her hard work while playing volleyball and working a job on top of her studies. While she is still proud of her accomplishments, she and one of her classmates did not join the standing ovation once Butker’s speech was finished.

“Honestly, when I heard it, it went immediately out of my head because I was like, ‘There’s no way he’s talking about this right now,’” she said. “I had to actually watch it back to realize what he actually said. I knew the topics that he talked about, but I never actually fully understood what he was saying until after the fact.”

Butker also mentioned how his wife’s dreams of having a career might not have come true in a room full of college graduates.

“I say all of this to you because I’ve seen it firsthand how much happier someone can be when they disregard the outside noise and move closer and closer to God’s will in their life,” he said. “Isabelle’s dream of having a career might not have come true. But if you ask her today, if she has any regrets on her decision, she would laugh out loud without hesitation and say, ‘Heck no.’”

The remark was met with giggles from the crowd, but not from Lewis who aims to make a name for herself in the human resources field.

“That’s not to say that’s everyone’s journey,” Lewis said. “There are women here who might not have scholarship money. They have that financial burden. They might not have family that’s involved in their academic pursuits. And to have that kind of diminish our success…

“Benedictine College, it’s very competitive academically. Our professors push us a lot more than I believe than other public colleges would to be a successful student. So for people to get through and to graduate from this college is huge. When he mentioned his wife and her role in the family, it’s like, ‘Yes, that might be your case, but that’s not all of our journeys.’ So it just was hard to hear that.”

It was also Benedictine College’s biggest graduating class in school history with 485 students. Three women were among the five valedictorians, and a fourth woman student was honored with a college leadership award.

Butker is one of the most successful kickers in Chiefs history and has been a major part of their three Super Bowls in the last five seasons. The 2017 seventh-round pick set Super Bowl records in Super Bowl 58 against the San Francisco 49ers with the longest-made field goal in a Super Bowl (57 yards) and career field goals made in a Super Bowl (nine).

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The five-year contract extension he signed in 2019 worth $20 million expires at the end of the 2024 season. Butker will earn more than $4 million this year. The Decatur, Georgia native was also born to a mother who does not follow the same ambitions that he has for women.

Butker’s mother, Elizabeth, has been a medical physicist at Emory University’s department of radiation oncology since 1988, per her LinkedIn. She specializes in brachytherapy and Gamma Knife medical physics care according to a 2020 article by Emory’s Winship Cancer Institute.

To Lewis, Butker has lost sight of what non-NFL families go through every day.

“Of course, she’s fine with where she’s at. She doesn’t have to struggle day-to-day to try to make ends meet,” she said. “What’s to say if a woman is in a bad situation with an abuser or they can’t financially support themselves? So it’s like, how dare you tell women that, ‘Oh, you got your degree, but that doesn’t really mean anything until you, you know, marry someone and have their kids.’

“I understand he has opinions, but like I said, I just don’t believe that that had anything to do with our graduation.”

Butker’s comments came on Saturday afternoon before his teammate quarterback Patrick Mahomes, co-owner of women’s professional soccer team Kansas City Current, spent his TIME100 Gala toast boosting women’s sports as a, “new era in sports”.

The commencement speech has gathered millions of views across social media platforms with people sharing Butker’s opinion and the opinion of Lewis and Gilmore. It is by far the most-watched video on Benedictine’s YouTube channel with almost 300K views at the time of this article, and the comments were soon turned off after posting.

The NFL also participates in LGBTQ+ initiatives. On the Wednesday before Super Bowl LVIII, the NFL hosted a “Night of Pride” event in partnership with GLAAD, an LGBTQ+ advocacy organization. The Chiefs also have a Pride selection of apparel with rainbow colors.

GLAAD president and CEO Kate Ellis issued a statement on Wednesday:

“Traditionally, commencement speeches are meant to celebrate and inspire graduates and their families. Kansas City Chiefs player Harrison Butker’s commencement speech was not only a clear miss, it was inaccurate, ill-informed, and woefully out of step with Americans about Pride, LGBTQ people and women. Those with expansive platforms, especially athletes, should use their voices to uplift and expand understanding and acceptance in the world. Instead, Butker’s remarks undermine experiences not of his own and reveal him to be one who goes against his own team’s commitment to the Kansas City community, and the NFL’s standards for respect, inclusion, and diversity across the League.”

Lewis, a Glenwood, Iowa native, grew to love football and the Chiefs at her time 60 miles north of Kansas City. Butker’s speech was all she and her family could talk about on a day to celebrate graduation, but she refuses to let his words affect her.

“I chose to be at that college, and I do know that had I not been there, I wouldn’t have heard that at my graduation,” she said. “What he said should have some repercussions. But everyone should know what they mean, and what they mean to everyone around them. So I’m not taking that super heavy.”

Gilmore is a Kansas City native who pointed to the failed stadium tax vote in April to emphasize that the Chiefs expect the community to support them without reciprocation.

“They’re asking us to believe and just know or trust that [Butker’s] views are not what they support for our society as a whole. But that’s a pretty big ask. That’s a pretty big ask of this community,” he said.

Gilmore quoted civil rights activist Martin Luther King Jr. when emphasizing that the Chiefs or Chiefs players should denounce Butker’s beliefs: “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”

“You should have something to say about this man’s attack [on] damn near everybody that could be considered a part of their audience or constituency,” he said.

“I hope the Chiefs will remember that, yes, in some cases, people’s memories are short. But when you hurt people, memories are long. Or if you support those who hurt people, if you provide shelter and safety to those who hurt people, people’s memories tend to be long enough.”

FOX4 has reached out to the Chiefs and Benedictine College for comment and is awaiting a response.