Kicking Butker: KC Chiefs’ Star Torched on Social Media for His Graduation Speech

Mainstream media critics of Butker’s Benedictine College address went after him for what he said — and what he didn’t say.

Harrison Butker addresses graduates at Benedictine College on May 11, 2024.
Harrison Butker addresses graduates at Benedictine College on May 11, 2024. (photo: Screenshot / Benedectine College )

Kansas City Chiefs’ placekicker Harrison Butker has generated not only kneejerk reactions from critics in the mainstream media, but also more thoughtful critiques from his fellow Catholics for a speech he gave Saturday that praised homemakers, the traditional Latin Mass and criticized Catholic bishops and priests.

Butker also criticized President Joe Biden for making the Sign of the Cross during a pro-abortion rally in Florida on April 23, as the Register reported Tuesday. But his comments about homosexuality, gender identity and women have drawn the most attention.

Butker, 28, considered one of the top kickers in the National Football League, delivered the commencement address May 11 at Benedictine College, a Catholic school in Atchison, Kansas.

A Google search Thursday morning showed that the words “Rails Against Pride Month” appear in dozens of headlines of articles about Butker’s speech, apparently stemming from an Associated Press story that was updated Wednesday with a new headline.


One Passing Reference

However, Butker made only one passing reference to homosexuality in the 20-minute speech, while referring to an April 30 Associated Press story on tradition-minded Catholics, including students at Benedictine College, who accept all of the Church’s moral teachings. He said the May 1 AP story was an “attempt to rebuke and embarrass” them that should be “met with excitement and pride.”

“Not the deadly sin 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,” Butker said, referring to June’s “Pride Month,” which celebrates homosexuality and transgenderism.

Later in the speech, he criticized certain Catholic civil leaders for “COVID lockdowns” and for “pushing dangerous gender ideologies onto the youth of America,” a reference to transgenderism.

He didn’t mention sexual orientation or gender identity any other time in the speech, which was more than 3,600 words long.

But a New York Times news story on Butker’s remarks published Tuesday led with the Pride Month comment, while putting the words “Holy Ghost” in lowercase.

A column published Wednesday in USA Today put the word “God” in lowercase and characterized Butker’s address as “an anti-LGBTQ rant.” 

Personal Attacks

Reaction to the speech has included not just disagreement but also attacks that are more personal.

A Kansas City, Missouri, municipal government social-media account Wednesday posted a tweet attempting to distance the city from the Chiefs kicker, pointing out that Butker lives outside city limits. Mayor Quinton Lucas on Thursday apologized.

But Missouri’s attorney general, Andrew Bailey, said Thursday afternoon his office “is demanding accountability” for what he described as the Kansas City government’s doxxing of Butker “for daring to express his religious beliefs.”

“I will enforce the Missouri Human Rights Act to ensure Missourians are not targeted for their free exercise of religion,” Bailey said in a written statement.

Butker declined to comment through a spokesman. The Kansas City Chiefs as of midday Thursday had not responded to a request for comment from the Register or on social media.

A National Football League official released a statement obtained by the Register distancing the league from Butker’s speech. In it, the league’s chief diversity officer, Jonathan Beane, said: “Harrison Butker gave a speech in his personal capacity. 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.”

That doesn’t go far enough for some of Butker’s critics.

An online petition at demanding the Chiefs release Butker reported more than 111,000 supporters as of midday Thursday.

Former NFL sideline reporter Lisa Guerrero on Tuesday tweeted: “Hey NFL — If you want to continue to grow your female fan base and any other marginalized group (straight white men are already watching your product), come get your boy.”

A supporter of Butker’s speech said Butker is drawing fire because he stood up for Catholic teachings.

“Make no mistake, the war on Butker is driven by anti-Catholicism,” wrote Bill Donohue, president of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, in a May 16 column.




Butker exhorted the men of the Benedictine Class of 2024, “Be unapologetic in your masculinity, fighting against the cultural emasculation of men.”

But a flashpoint of the speech is his take on women, which has drawn sharp reaction.

One example is Susannah Leisegang, 21, a graphics design major who just graduated from Benedictine and was in the audience for Butker’s speech. She said she was among a handful of people who booed Butker, though most of the people there gave him a standing ovation.

In a Tiktok video reposted by Newsweek, she called Butker’s speech “horrible.”

She said she plans to work for a national magazine company doing layout and photography.

“I’m excited for what my career brings me, and no, I’m not a f------ homemaker,” Leisegang said.

She added that at age 21, “Getting married and having kids is not my ideal situation right now.”

Butker’s speech marred her experience of the day, she said.

“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,” Leisegang said.

Some commentators who come from an explicitly Catholic point of view expressed frustration with Butker’s speech.

“For all that is done to encourage women to embrace motherhood & the home, I’d love to see equal time given to challenging men to see the value of leaning into & loving fatherhood,” said author and podcaster Katie Prejean McGrady in a tweet.

Emily Zanotti, a writer and Register columnist, tweeted: “If you think Harrison Butker made any good waves in the culture, or drew anyone to the truth of Catholicism, I have a bridge to sell you.”

Since it has drawn so much attention, the Register is quoting Butker’s comments about women below in full. (The Register has also published a complete transcript of the speech.)

Butker began addressing the topic this way:

“For the ladies present today, congratulations on an amazing accomplishment. You should be proud of all that you have achieved to this point in your young lives.

“I want to speak directly to you briefly because I think it is you, the women, who have had the most diabolical lies told to you. How many of you are sitting here now about to cross this stage and are thinking about all the promotions and titles you are going to get in your career? 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.”

Then he spoke about his own family life, at one point getting visibly emotional:

“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. I’m on the stage today and able to be the man I am because I have a wife who leans into her vocation. I’m beyond blessed with the many talents God has given me, but it cannot be overstated that all of 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.”

At that point, the audience at Benedictine College applauded for 18 seconds.

Butker continued:

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

“I say all of this to you because I have seen it firsthand, how much happier someone can be when they disregard the outside noise and move closer and closer to God’s will in their life. Isabelle’s dream of having a career might not have come true, but if you asked her today if she had any regrets on her decision, she would laugh out loud, without hesitation, and say, ‘Heck, No.’”