Georgia Tech grad, NFL player Harrison Butker goes viral for graduation speech

LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - FEBRUARY 5: Harrison Butker #7 of the Kansas City Chiefs speaks to media during Super Bowl LVIII Opening Night at Allegiant Stadium ahead of Super Bowl LVIII on February 5, 2024 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Robin Alam/ISI Photo

Georgia native and Kansas City Chiefs kicker Harrison Butker pushed back against Pride month along with President Biden's leadership during the COVID-19 pandemic and his stance on abortion during a now viral commencement address at Benedictine College last weekend. 

In his roughly 20-minute address Saturday at the Catholic private liberal arts school in Atchinson, Kansas, Butker congratulated the women receiving degrees and said most of them were probably more excited about getting married and having children. He received a standing ovation from graduates and other attendees.

A Decatur native who graduated from Westminster High School, Butker went on to play for Georgia Tech, ending his college career as the school's all-time leading scorer, according to his biography on Georgia Tech’s website.

Snippets of Butker's address have been shared multiple times on social media, like this one: 

"I think it is you, the women, who have had the most diabolical lies told to you," Butker said.

"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. I can tell you that my beautiful wife Isabelle would be the first to say that her life truly started when she started living her vocation as a wife and as a mother," he said.

Butker said that his wife embraced "one of the most important titles of all. Homemaker."

The three-time Super Bowl champion also said that some Catholic leaders were "pushing dangerous gender ideologies onto the youth of America." He also criticized as disparaging to the Catholic Church an article by The Associated Press highlighting a shift toward conservativism in some parts of the church.

Butker, who’s made his conservative Catholic beliefs well known, also referred to a "deadly sin sort of pride that has a month dedicated to it" in an oblique reference to Pride month. Additionally, Butker took aim at Biden’s policies, including his condemnation of the Supreme Court’s reversal of the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision and advocacy for freedom of choice — a key campaign issue in the 2024 presidential race.

The 28-year-old has a fraught history on the issue. He initially opposed the Roe v. Wade decision, saying it went too far. Butker also opposed federal funding for abortions and supported restrictions on abortions later in pregnancy.

Butker also tackled Biden’s response to COVID-19, which has killed nearly 1.2 million people in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

"While COVID might have played a large role throughout your formative years, it is not unique," he said. "Bad policies and poor leadership have negatively impacted major life issues. Things like abortion, IVF, surrogacy, euthanasia, as well as a growing support for degenerate cultural values and media all stem from pervasiveness of disorder."

Graduates had mixed views on the speech. Valerie Anne Volpe, 20, who graduated with an art degree, lauded Butker for saying things that "people are scared to say."

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

Elle Wilbers, 22, who is heading to medical school, said she was shocked by Butker’s criticism of priests and bishops and his reference to the LGBTQ+ community, one that she described as "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," Wilbers said.

Kassidy Neuner, 22, who will spend a gap year teaching before going to law school, said being a stay-at-home parent is "a wonderful decision."

"And it’s also not for everybody," Neuner added, saying, "I think that he should have addressed more that it’s not always an option. 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."

The Chiefs declined to comment on Butker’s commencement address.

The 2017 seventh-round pick out of Georgia Tech has become of the NFL’s best kickers, breaking the Chiefs’ franchise record with a 62-yard field goal in 2022. Butker helped them win their first Super Bowl in 50 years in 2020, added a second Lombardi Trophy in 2023, and he kicked the field goal that forced overtime in a Super Bowl win over San Francisco in February.

It has been an embarrassing off-season for the Chiefs, though.

Last month, voters in Jackson County, Missouri, soundly rejected a ballot initiative that would have helped pay for an $800 million renovation to Arrowhead Stadium, home of the Chiefs. Many voters criticized the plan put forward by the Chiefs as catering primarily to VIPs and the wealthy.

The same week, wide receiver Rashee Rice turned himself in to Dallas police on multiple charges, including aggravated assault, after he was involved in a high-speed crash that left four people with injuries. Rice has acknowledged being the driver of one of the sports cars that was going in excess of 100 mph (160 kph).

Last week, law enforcement officials told The Dallas Morning News that Rice also was suspected of assaulting a person at a downtown nightclub. Dallas police did not name Rice as the suspect in detailing a report to The Associated Press.

Chiefs coach Andy Reid said he had spoken to the receiver and the team was letting the legal process play out.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. This story was reported from Atlanta.