Harrison Butker’s Outmoded Commencement Speech

Source: Benedictine College, Kansas City Star
Source: Benedictine College, Kansas City Star

Harrison Butker, the kicker for the Kansas City Chiefs, recently delivered a socially unacceptable commencement address at the Benedictine College graduation ceremony. Although Butker was speaking at a conservative Catholic school, the controversial comments he made, most notably the ones directed towards women and the LGBTQ+ community, have resulted in intense backlash towards both him and the Chiefs from the public. 

He states, “I can tell you that my beautiful 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.” He also added in, “I’m on this stage today and able to be the man I am because I have a wife who leans into her vocation.” In my opinion, claiming that his wife’s life only became of value once she was married and a mother is both a disrespectful and unfashionable opinion. 

The kicker declared to his female audience, “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.” Now, there are more than a few things wrong with this statement, but most importantly: Although most people (not just women) are excited to see what their familial future holds, specifically telling the women of the room that they likely are more eager to have a ring on their finger and start popping out babies than they are to find financial and academic success, is a highly sexist way of thinking. 

It would’ve been completely different if Butker had addressed the crowd as a whole and reminded everyone of the importance of having strong relationships and the support system that a family provides, but calling out the women specifically is no coincidence. As a matter of fact, Butker encouraged the men present to be “unapologetic in your masculinity”…a wildly different approach than the one he took with his advice for the female graduates. 

Butker also slid in his views that women have had “diabolical lies” told to them regarding abortion, IVF, and surrogacy. He mentions that he believes those issues are the products of common political disorder. I’m not surprised Butker has these views, but a graduation speech is not the appropriate time to voice them. 

Feminist author, Jessica Valenti, responded to the kicker’s outlandish statements by explaining how “He was just saying out loud what Republicans have already codified: that women’s role in this country is to bear children and support men, who are the actual stars of the show.”

As if he hadn’t done enough damage, Butker made sure to add that the pride of the LGBTQ+ community is a “deadly sin.” Justice Horn, former Kansas City commissioner, quickly assured the public that, “Harrison Butker doesn’t represent Kansas City nor has he ever. Kansas City has always been a place that welcomes, affirms, and embraces our LGBTQ+ community members.”

Lastly, the cherry on top is that Butker decided to bring his points home by quoting a lyric from the Taylor Swift song “Bejeweled”. If he had done even the shallowest of Google searches, he would’ve quickly found that Taylor Swift has strong liberal views and has repeatedly spoken out in support of feminist ideals and LGBTQ+ rights. Or, maybe the kicker had known this all along.

Regardless, Butker did not even have the decency to call Swift by her name, and instead referred to her as “my teammate’s girlfriend”. To me, this is almost laughable because although not everyone loves her music, there is no denying that she has remained one of the most prevalent artists of the 21st century and is constantly breaking records and accumulating awards. While, on the other hand, the majority of people did not even know of Butker’s existence until this speech. When thinking of the Kansas City Chiefs, more relevant players come to my mind, such as Patrick Mahomes.

Although the audience met him with applause and cheering, which appeared to send Butker toward the verge of tears, the internet had the opposite reaction. A petition with over 220,000 signatures demanding that the Chiefs cut ties with Butker has gone viral, and the NFL issued a statement clarifying that Butker’s expressed values do not align with those of the league. 

This is not the first time Butker has voiced these kinds of statements. In 2023, he spoke at the Georgia Tech graduation ceremony, where he made points to assert that a woman’s main role is that of a “homemaker.” After his stunt at Georgia Tech, it baffles me that he was even allowed to speak at another graduation.

In all, Butker’s commencement speech was more than disrespectful. If I were a woman in that audience who had worked just as hard as him to be there, having to sit through him diminishing my accomplishments would have been infuriating. Butker’s speech has reminded the public that many still carry sexist and outdated beliefs, but it is reassuring to see that the majority of the people understood his wrongs and did not hold back in calling him out.

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