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CatholicVote, a top Catholic political advocacy group, has criticized the National Football League (NFL) for attempting to distance itself from player Harrison Butker over his faith-filled commencement speech. Butker’s speech at Benedictine University included references to his Catholic faith, criticisms of President Joe Biden’s pro-abortion stance, and controversial political topics like in vitro fertilization (IVF) and diversity. The NFL released a statement saying that Butker’s views are not those of the league as an organization, leading CatholicVote to question the NFL’s commitment to genuine diversity and inclusion. The advocacy group has asked whether the NFL’s inclusion efforts truly encompass Catholics, pro-life Americans, mothers, and those with traditional moral beliefs.

CatholicVote also highlighted the backlash against Butker, including criticism from the wife of LA Rams quarterback and comments on “The View” labeling his religious beliefs as “cult-like.” The group denounced the growing hatred, intimidation, and threats of violence directed at Butker for expressing his deeply-held beliefs, describing it as anti-Catholic bigotry that cannot be tolerated. Brian Burch, president of CatholicVote, praised Butker’s speech as courageous and encouraged Catholics to uphold the high ideals of their faith. The group emphasized that these ideals are not controversial for millions of Americans and remain sacred for many religious believers, including millions of NFL fans and customers who share similar beliefs.

In a letter addressed to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and Kansas City Chiefs CEO Clark Hunt, CatholicVote expressed hope that the NFL does not intend to send a message to Catholics and others who uphold basic moral tenets that they are outsiders and no longer welcome. The advocacy group stressed that Catholics also watch NFL games and are an important part of the league’s fan base. The NFL has yet to respond to CatholicVote’s letter or provide a comment on the situation, according to the advocacy group. CatholicVote reiterated its support for Butker’s speech and urged the league to reconsider its stance on diversity and inclusion, particularly when it comes to embracing individuals with traditional moral beliefs.

The controversy surrounding Harrison Butker’s commencement speech highlights the tension between freedom of expression and the push for inclusivity in professional sports. As public figures, athletes like Butker face scrutiny and backlash for voicing opinions that may not align with mainstream or politically correct views. The response from the NFL, which distanced itself from Butker’s comments, raises questions about the boundaries of acceptable discourse within the league and whether players with traditional or religious beliefs are being marginalized. CatholicVote’s defense of Butker underscores the importance of protecting individuals’ rights to express their beliefs, even when they are unpopular or controversial.

The situation also sheds light on broader societal debates around faith, morality, and diversity, particularly in the context of professional sports. As public figures, athletes often find themselves navigating complex social issues and facing criticism for their personal beliefs. The backlash against Butker for his faith-filled speech raises concerns about the level of tolerance and acceptance in contemporary discourse, as well as the need to respect individuals’ rights to hold and share different perspectives. By speaking out in support of Butker’s speech, CatholicVote is advocating for a more inclusive and respectful dialogue that embraces a diversity of viewpoints, including those based on traditional religious values.

Ultimately, the clash between Harrison Butker’s commencement speech and the NFL’s response serves as a reminder of the ongoing challenges of balancing freedom of expression with the promotion of diversity and inclusion in professional sports. As debates around faith, politics, and morality continue to shape public discourse, it is essential for organizations like the NFL to navigate these complex issues thoughtfully and ensure that all individuals, including those with traditional beliefs, are treated with respect and dignity. By advocating for Butker and defending the rights of Catholics and others with similar values, CatholicVote is calling attention to the importance of upholding diverse perspectives and safeguarding the principles of free speech in a pluralistic society.

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