Harrison Butker's commencement speech: Wives should stay at home. His mom's a medical physicist

Kansas City Chiefs place kicker Harrison Butker looks to the scoreboard during a game
Kansas City Chiefs kicker Harrison Butker expressed some controversial views about women, abortion, President Biden and Pride month as the commencement speaker at Benedictine College on Saturday. (Reed Hoffmann / Associated Press)

Harrison Butker is a three-time Super Bowl champion and one of the most accurate field-goal kickers in NFL history.

As such, the Kansas City Chiefs kicker was given a platform to express his views as the commencement speaker at Benedictine College.

The devout Christian used the opportunity to give some radical thoughts and controversial opinions during a 20-minute speech delivered at the ceremony honoring the 485 students graduating from the Catholic private liberal arts school in Atchison, Kan., on Saturday.

Butker took shots at gender roles, abortion, President Biden and Pride month during his Benedictine address. Now the NFL appears to be distancing itself from the 28-year-old.

“Harrison Butker gave a speech in his personal capacity," Jonathan Beane, NFL senior vice president and chief diversity and inclusion officer, said in a statement emailed to The Times. "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.”

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At Benedictine, Butker told the male graduates to "be unapologetic in your masculinity" and congratulated the female graduates on their "amazing accomplishment." He went on to tell the women that 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."

Butker then told those women that "my beautiful wife, Isabelle, would be the first to say her life truly started when she began living her vocation as a wife and as a mother. I’m on this stage today and able to be the man I am because I have a wife who leans into her vocation."

Butker — whose mother, Elizabeth Keller Butker, is a medical physicist at Emory University’s Winship Cancer Institute in Atlanta, where she's worked since 1988 — then started getting choked up.

“I’m beyond blessed with the many talents God has given me," Butker said, "but it cannot be overstated that all my success is made possible because a girl I met in band class back in middle school would convert to the faith, become my wife and embrace one of the most important titles of all: homemaker."

That statement was met with 18 seconds of enthusiastic cheers and applause. Butker continued praising his wife and her role in their family.

"She’s the primary educator to our children. She’s the one who ensures I never let football or my business become a distraction from that of a husband and a father. She is the person that knows me best at my core and it is through our marriage that, Lord willing, we both will attain salvation."

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During his opening remarks, Butker stated that "things like abortion, in vitro fertilization, surrogacy, euthanasia, as well as a growing support for the degenerate cultural values and media, all stem from the pervasiveness of disorder."

He also said that Biden "has been so vocal in his support for the murder of innocent babies that I’m sure to many people it appears you can be both Catholic and pro-choice."

At one point, Butker mentioned the word "pride" — then clarified that he wasn't talking about "the deadly sins sort of Pride that has an entire month dedicated to it, but the true God-centered pride that is cooperating with the Holy Ghost to glorify Him."

The comment, a jab at the LGBTQ+ community that celebrates Pride month every June, received a few chuckles from the audience.

When Butker finished his address, the crowd rose for an ovation. Susannah Leisegang, a former Benedictine track and field athlete who graduated Saturday with a degree in graphic design, said she was among the handful of people who did not stand.

"Some of us did boo — me and my roommate definitely did," Leisegang said in a video she posted on TikTok. "There was a standing ovation from everyone in the room, except from me, my roommate and about 10 to 15 other women. You also have to keep in mind this was at a Catholic and conservative college, so a lot of the men were like, ‘F— yeah!’ They were excited. But it was horrible. Most of the women were looking back and forth at each other like, ‘What the f— is going on?'"

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Leisegang pointed out that she is 21 and has a job lined up in her field.

"Getting married and having kids is not my ideal situation right now," she said. "So, yeah, it was definitely horrible and it definitely made graduation feel a little less special, knowing I had to sit through that and get told I’m nothing but a homemaker."

Other members of the graduating class who participated in the ceremony have shared a variety of opinions on Butker's speech. Elle Wilbers, 22, a future medical school student, told the Associated Press she thought Butker's reference to the LGBTQ+ community was “horrible.”

“We should have compassion for the people who have been told all their life that the person they love is like, it’s not OK to love that person,” she said.

Kassidy Neuner, 22, who plans to teach for a year before going to law school, told the AP that being a stay-at-home parent is “a wonderful decision” but "it's also not for everybody."

"I think that he should have addressed more that it’s not always an option," she said. "And, if it is your option in life, that’s amazing for you. But there’s also the option to be a mother and a career woman.”

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ValerieAnne Volpe, 20, who graduated with an art degree, told the AP she thought Butker said things that “people are scared to say.”

“You can just hear that he loves his wife," Volpe said. "You can hear that he loves his family,” she said.

Butker has not commented publicly since the address. His previous social media posts are being used by people leaving comments both blasting and supporting his remarks. Heavy.com reports that all images of Isabelle Butker have been removed from her husband's X and Instagram feeds in recent days.

Benedictine has not publicly addressed Butker's controversial statements and did not immediately respond to multiple messages from The Times. The college's social media feeds have been flooded with angry comments regarding Butker's speech, and the comment section for the YouTube video of it has been disabled.

An article on Benedictine's website about the commencement ceremony had initially referred to Butker's speech as "inspiring." The uncredited piece includes a reworked version of Butker's "homemaker" quote that does not include that word, with no indication that the quote had been altered.

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The Chiefs did not respond to a request for comment from The Times. Tavia Hunt, wife of Chiefs owner Clark Hunt, appeared to express her support for Butker in a lengthy Instagram post Thursday.

"Countless highly educated women devote their lives to nurturing and guiding their children," she wrote. "Someone disagreeing with you doesn’t make them hateful; it simply means they have a different opinion. Let’s celebrate families, motherhood and fatherhood."

Gracie Hunt, 25, one of Clark and Tavia Hunt's three children was asked about Butker's speech Friday on "Fox & Friends."

“I can only speak from my own experience, which is I had the most incredible mom who had the ability to stay home and be with us as kids growing up,” Gracie Hunt said. “And I understand that there are many women out there who can’t make that decision but for me in my life, I know it was really formative in shaping me and my siblings to be who we are.”

Asked if she understood what Butker was talking about, Hunt said, “For sure, and I really respect Harrison and his Christian faith and what he’s accomplished on and off the field.”

A change.org petition calling for the team to release the kicker because of his comments has received more than 185,000 signatures. Eight petitions supporting Butker appear on the site as well. One has more than 11,000 signatures while the rest have fewer than 800 each.

The Chargers poked fun at Butker on Wednesday in their schedule-release video, which is modeled after "The Sims" video game. In the video, Butker's likeness is shown baking a pie, scrubbing a kitchen counter and arranging flowers.

The official X account for Kansas City also appeared to attempt putting a humorous spin on the matter, posting a "reminder" that Butker lives in a different city Wednesday night before deleting it and posting an apology.

Earlier in the week on X, Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas appeared to defend Butker's right to express his views.

Last year, Butker gave the commencement address at his alma mater, Georgia Tech, advising the graduates to "get married and start a family."

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This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.