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Wichita State's independent, student-run news source

The Sunflower

OPINION: Catholic college or not, Harrison Butker was out of line

Savanna Nichols

Some of you have more than likely heard about the awful commencement speech given by Kansas City Chiefs kicker Harrison Butker. 

If you haven’t, here’s a brief rundown of what happened and what was said; Butker gave a commencement speech at Benedictine College, a Catholic college in Atchison, Kansas, that was filled with misogynistic, homophobic and transphobic comments.

A majority of his speech was targeted toward the women in the crowd. He starts off with, “I think it is you, the women, who have had the most diabolical lies told to you.” 

He then goes on to say that some of those women may live successful careers but he would “venture to guess that the majority of you are most excited about your marriage and the children you will bring into this world.”

First off, what diabolical lies are you referring to, Harrison? The fact that we want to make our own choices despite people like you telling us that our only goal in life is to be homemakers and child-bearers? 

His statements were pretty bold, considering that Butker’s mom is a physicist at Emory University’s Winship Cancer Institute. I hope she’s ashamed of the comments her son has made. 

Imagine you just spent thousands of dollars to get an education for a career that you have spent years working toward only to be told that you should stay in the kitchen and serve your husband. 

Statements like these are harmful and set feminism back 50-60 years. We have made so much progress from being so-called “servants” to pursuing jobs in the workforce that are usually male-dominated. Little by little, it seems like we are getting our rights stripped away, and it’s gotten worse since the overturning of Roe v. Wade

These statements are also used to promote violence towards women, justify men’s dominance and are often used as a way of seeing women as objects rather than human beings. 

Here’s something: I would venture to guess that some of the women in the crowd of 485 people don’t want children at all or aren’t interested in marriage, let alone in men. 

This leads me to my next point when, in his speech, he encouraged graduates to “have pride” and “not the deadly sin sort of pride that has a whole month dedicated to it.” 

As a queer person, I feel sorry for all the LGBTQ+ graduates that had to sit there and listen to him take a dig at our community that has spent decades upon decades fighting for rights only to be told that we should not have a month dedicated to our well-deserved pride. 

If that already doesn’t sound horrible, to make matters worse, he dragged Taylor Swift into it.

When referring to Taylor Swift, he quoted a lyric from her song “Bejeweled” from her album “Midnights.” Only he didn’t credit her by name; in his speech, he said, “As my teammate’s girlfriend says: ‘Familiarity breeds contempt.’” 

As a Swiftie, I believe that Taylor deserves so much more credit than being referred to as Butker’s “teammate’s girlfriend.” Not to mention, he also dragged Travis Kelce into his speech with that comment as well. 

His stab at Swift shows that Butker is insecure because Swift’s net worth is worth more than his will ever be. Butker’s net worth as an NFL player is estimated to be around $5 million, whereas Swift’s net worth is $1.1 billion, which she has accumulated from her music and her sold-out Eras tour, which has become the highest-grossing tour of all time. 

Butker also took Swift’s lyric out of context; while yes, the phrase itself means that people can become bored and stop respecting you, in “Bejeweled,” Swift uses the phrase to illustrate her belief that the better her partner knows her, the more he will want to leave her.

Butker, on the other hand, used it to criticize priests for “catering too much” to the feelings of parishioners. 

I may not be Catholic or Christian, but I would like to know what Butker meant by this. Is it because Pope Francis has tried to make Catholic churches more welcoming for those in the LGBTQ+ community? While that’s complicated within itself, Butker wasn’t clear on how priests are catering to parishioners. 

Butker also took a jab at a fellow Catholic, President Joe Biden, and claimed that Biden was “pushing dangerous gender ideologies onto the youth of America,” referring to the Biden administration’s move to protect LGBTQ+ students, including transgender students. 

The NFL has since come out and said that Butker’s views are personal and do not align with the organization itself. The speech has also been condemned by the nuns at Benedictine College in a statement posted to Facebook on Thursday.

Not to mention that some of the students at Benedictine were uncomfortable with Butker’s speech and an alumni who graduated from the college in 2019 called the remarks “disheartening.” 

Christian users on X (formerly Twitter) also used the platform to speak out against Butker’s speech with one user saying that Butker should not have given his speech.

Despite the backlash, Butker has gained support from several people, including support from Kansas City Chiefs owner Clark Hunt’s daughter, Gracie Hunt, and teammate Chris Jones. 

Butker also received a standing ovation at the ceremony, although some women booed and stayed seated during the ovation. Since his speech, sales for Butker’s jerseys have risen as well. 

Overall, Butker was out of line with his speech; no one asked for him to say any of this. No one asked for my commentary either, but it was provoked by the fact that misogynistic, homophobic and transphobic comments were made. 

As I said before, I may not be Catholic or Christian. I do believe in a different religion, but you don’t see me, a Pagan, publicly shaming those who believe that my religion is “worshiping the devil” even though they’re misinformed. 

No, I either don’t bring up my beliefs at all unless asked or I take the time to educate others that other beliefs exist because we should all “love thy neighbor,” which is something Butker should learn. 

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About the Contributors
Jacinda Hall
Jacinda Hall, Podcast Editor
Jacinda Hall is the podcast editor for The Sunflower. Hall is a junior majoring in communications with an emphasis in journalism and minoring in English literature. Her favorite quote is by Kurt Cobain: “I’d rather be hated for who I am, than loved for who I am not.” In her free time, Hall likes to go to the gym, crochet and make fancy beverages. Hall's pronouns are she/her.
Savanna Nichols, Illustrator/Designer
Savanna Nichols is a first-year illustrator for The Sunflower.

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  • J

    JL de GrasseMay 22, 2024 at 12:45 pm

    Thank you for your response to Mr. Butker’s speech and for including the information about his mother, who is a highly trained, successful professional woman. I agree with your position on this. When even the Nuns at the college are objecting, there’s surely a problem with the message.

  • O

    OwenMay 21, 2024 at 12:29 am

    I think this article heavily misunderstands the purpose of Mr. Butkers speech. The first thing I would like to point out is that Harrison is a Catholic, speaking at a catholic college, with catholic students. In the Catholic Church each individual person is called to 3 vocations, married life, single life or religious life. One’s vocation should be (male or female) the top priority in his or her own life regardless of gender. I would like to inform the author of this article more on the Church’s beliefs and teachings because I think the author has little to no understanding of Catholicism. When one gets married in the Catholic Church they make a promise before each other AND God promising to have children and to raise them in the teachings of the church. Harrison was reinforcing these beliefs into the students, not telling women that they had to stay at home. He is reinforcing the beliefs of a vocation to married life and that having children and raising those children with both parents in the household is important. Benedictine being a private institution, following the faith of the catholic church has absolutely no responsibility whatsoever to cater to LGBTQ students regardless if you agree with that or not. If that doesn’t seem fair to you, then don’t become catholic or attend a school who preaches the same values of Harrison Butker. It’s a private institution and in no way shape or form should he be bashed for his own beliefs (which are the beliefs of about 1.4 billion people, 1/7th of the population of earth) Students who attend Benedictine are catholic, this is the belief of their faith, a private institution which is not tax payer funded is free to its own beliefs. To think that Butker is telling women to “stay in the kitchen” is completely absurd, he did not once say anything astronomically close to that but instead told women that they have one of the most important and biggest graces that someone can have, it is a miracle in itself being able to birth another human being and all life should be cherished. For someone who admits they have absolutely no understanding of church teaching, to misunderstand and give no context to readers about the speech Harrison gives is completely unfair. The last thing that I found to make absolutely no sense at all was the comment about Harrison butker being insecure that Taylor swift makes more money than him?? That is probably the most random paragraph in the whole article, I was so confused and thrown off because it seemed to just be thrown in there for literally no reason. He didn’t mention money or net worth one time let alone talk about Taylor swift being a billionaire. If the article was well put together and had good arguments with actual quotes that would be one thing, but to just bash someone because of his faith and beliefs (which many many many Catholics in attendance agreed with, and had they not agreed with, would be denying the teachings of their own faith) because you don’t understand the churches doctrine is unfair and should really be studied. Benedictine College has seen a massive spike in applications because of this speech, in terms of the Catholic Church his speech was extremely powerful and successful in gaining attention and awareness in the church and its problems. I hope the author of this article understands more about the importance of vocation in the church and can at least begin to understand what this speech meant to a lot of young catholic men and women including myself and what it means to be a man of faith.