NFL Kicker Harrison Butker Should be Celebrated, Not Canceled, for Expressing His Religious Views

May 21, 2024
First Liberty Insider | Harrison Butker Benedictine College

by Mia Gradick • 6 min read

The newest play on cancel culture’s gameboard: punish and ridicule an NFL player for expressing his religious convictions.

Kansas City Chiefs kicker Harrison Butker’s commencement address at Benedictine College went viral last week. In it, he received a standing ovation from the crowd. But now, online petitions, the NFL, and even Kansas City are attacking the Catholic player and some are calling for his dismissal.

Butker is well-known for his religious views. He often posts on his own social media quoting Scripture and thanking God for his team’s successes.

In his speech, Butker simply expressed his views in a way that is consistent with his faith.

He defended the dignity of life and stated his opinion about President Biden’s stance on abortion, saying that “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.”

However, Butker took the most heat for affirming marriage and motherhood. He said:

“You should be proud of all that you have achieved to this point in your young lives . . . 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.”

He in no way diminished women who have successful careers. Rather, Butker clarified that a woman can succeed and also live by values inspired by her Catholic faith. In other words, a woman’s vocation should not minimize the importance of family—one of the core principles of the Christian faith. Does this statement seem worthy of cancel culture’s cowardice? The answer is an unequivocal “No.”

And it seems that many women share and support what Butker believes. The Kansas City Chiefs owner’s wife and daughter, Tavia and Gracie Hunt, stepped forward to support Butker. In a social media post, Tavia shared Proverbs 31:28 and emphasized that the “embracing of beautiful roles that God made is something to celebrate.” Gracie explained that she “really respect(s) Harrison and his Christian faith.”

As a woman, this strikes a very personal chord with me. I am entering my second year of law school with aspirations to do public interest law after experiences working for the U.S. Congress, think tanks and here at First Liberty. But far more important to me, beyond the opportunities I have been blessed with, is family. One day, I aspire to be a mother and a wife – to be able to help care for my family in that capacity. One of my most sincere hopes is that God blesses me with the ability to step into those roles. But those roles do not preclude my career. Thus, as a young professional woman, it is alarming that our culture insists that Butker’s statement diminishes from that of professional women. The placement of family values above work is not controversial. It should not be something worthy of cancel culture’s claws. If an expression supporting family values is canceled, then what’s next?

So, let’s call the opposition to Butker’s view for what it is. The morally and intellectually bankrupt philosophy of cancel culture cannot withstand even the slightest challenge in an open marketplace of ideas.

The worst part about cancel culture today is how two-faced it can be. As Butker is being dragged through the mud, the media and the far Left don’t have much to say about other players. For example, Travis Kelce, the tight end on the Chiefs, delivered a graduation speech at the University of Cincinnati last month with a beer in hand. Kelce’s words of wisdom to the graduates: “You gotta fight for your right to party!”

But you likely did not hear much about that speech. You probably also did not hear a major outcry about Butker and Kelce’s teammate Rashee Rice facing eight charges of aggravated assault after a car accident.

But don’t fret. Neither event prompted cancel culture to call for those two players’ dismissals. Instead, the media praised them.

Nevertheless, cancel culture still sunk its nasty teeth into Butker for simply sharing his Catholic beliefs at a Catholic graduation.

And unfortunately, as for the NFL itself, it bowed to cancel culture. Apparently, the league found some much offense in the speech that they immediately shifted to play defense. NFL representatives said in a statement that “his views are not those of the NFL as an organization. The NFL is steadfast in our commitment to inclusion, which only makes our league stronger.”

Perhaps the most egregious is that Butker was doxed by the city where he lives and for whom he won championships. Government officials in Kansas City tweeted after Butker’s speech: “Just a reminder that Harrison Butker lives in the City of Lee’s Summit.”

Harrison Butker Tweet | First Liberty 

What’s worse, the city tried to hide what they did by taking down the tweet, prompting the Mayor to apologize. But it was simply a little too late. This didn’t change the fact that the city publicized where he lived, or that there were photos of Butker’s wife and kids circulating online. That’s all just a step too far. No person should have their personal information outed like this just because they voiced religious beliefs that contradict cultural orthodoxy. That shouldn’t happen in our country.

Butker said in his speech that “the world around us says that we should keep our beliefs to ourselves whenever they go against tyranny…because now, truth is in the minority.”

How can people of faith respond to the ever-increasing cancel culture that seeks to silence and censor religious speech?

With courage. In particular, the courage to speak the truth and stand firm for the ideals and principles that make America a country built on free, open and diverse expression.

And that is precisely what Harrison Butker demonstrated in his graduation speech. He lived out his faith courageously by speaking the tenets of his faith. He has every right under the Constitution to voice his religious beliefs, as well as to express disagreement with the President and other public leaders.

Harrison Butker had the courage to engage in religious speech guided by his sincerely held convictions. He should be celebrated for that courage. Canceling him betrays what the First Amendment, free speech and religious freedom in America are all about.

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