“Nah. Can’t be … in the locker room, nah,” he said. “You’ve gotta come out 10 years later after that.”
The 24-year-old Culliver, a third-round draft pick in 2011 out of South Carolina, made 47 tackles with two interceptions and a forced fumble this season while starting six games for the NFC champion Niners (13-4-1).
He had his first career postseason interception in San Francisco’s 28-24 win at Atlanta for the NFC title, which sent the 49ers to the Super Bowl for the first time since 1995. They will face the AFC champion Baltimore Ravens on Sunday.
The 49ers participate in the NFL’s “It Gets Better” anti-bullying campaign. Three organizations working for LGBT inclusion in sports — Athlete Ally, You Can Play, and GLAAD — reacted to Culliver’s remarks and later acknowledged his apology.
“Chris Culliver’s comments were disrespectful, discriminatory and dangerous, particularly for the young people who look up to him,” said Athlete Ally Executive Director Hudson Taylor. “His words underscore the importance of the athlete ally movement and the key role that professional athletes play in shaping an athletic climate that affirms and includes gay and lesbian players.”
Calling Lange’s questions “real disrespectful,” Culliver said he realized he was speaking to a comedian and not a journalist.
“That was pretty much in a joking manner,” the player said. “It’s nothing about how I feel.”
Ravens linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo, who made headlines this season with his vocal support of a gay-marriage initiative in Maryland, said Culliver’s comments to Lange were reflective of how many players in the NFL feel, even if they don’t express it publicly. He hopes the 49ers cornerback will learn from this experience and become a positive role model in the quest for equality.
“You can’t fight hate with hate,” Ayanbadejo said. “You’ve got to fight hate with love.”
Baltimore safety Bernard Pollard said Culliver should be allowed to express his views, even if some people found them offensive.
“The guy’s entitled to his own opinion,” said Pollard, who has acknowledged that he disagrees with Ayanbadejo’s stand on gay marriage. “I’m not going to sit here and knock him. I’m not going to sit here and judge him. It’s freedom of speech. If you don’t like it, don’t listen to it.”
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