Chris Culliver has apologized for controversial remarks he made about the possibility of gay players in the NFL.
"The derogatory comments I made yesterday were a reflection of thoughts in my head, but they are not how I feel," the San Francisco 49ers cornerback said in a statement as posted on the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) website. "It has taken me seeing them in print to realize that they are hurtful and ugly. Those discriminating feelings are truly not in my heart."
He then concluded, "Further, I apologize to those who I have hurt and offended, and I pledge to learn and grow from this experience.”
Culliver's comments, delivered yesterday in an interview with Artie Lange, came on the heels of news that former 49ers offensive tackle Kwame Harris was in court on assault charges from a former boyfriend. Though Harris last played for the 49ers in 2007, many former teammates have since spoken out in his defense.
"I don't do the gay guys, man," Culliver is quoted as saying. "I don't do that. No, we don't got no gay people on the team, they gotta get up out of here if they do."
The comments have since cast the Super Bowl-bound 49ers in a negative light just days ahead of the NFL championship game. In addition, a petition has been launched on change.org asking the NFL to send Culliver to spend a day with the New York Gay Football League.
"This will give him an opportunity to see that openly gay players perform just as well as heterosexual players," the petition's organizer, Christian Fuscarino, writes. "It will also allow him to ask questions and speak with members of the team."
Prior to the incident, the 49ers had built a reputation as one of the more gay-friendly teams in the NFL. In August, the team became the first in the league to produce an "It Gets Better" video in support of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) youth.