Travis Kelce says he won't judge Harrison Butker over anti-LGBTQ, misogynistic speech

Travis Kelce
Travis Kelce

Nearly two weeks after Kansas City Chiefs' Harrison Butker gave a condescending and divisive commencement speech at Benedictine College, teammate Travis Kelce is finally weighing in.

"When it comes down to his views and what he said at the commencement speech, you know, those are his," Kelce said during a recent episode of the podcast he hosts with his brother Jason, New Heights. "I can't say I agree with the majority of it, or just about any of it."

But although Kelce acknowledged the disagreement, he also defended Butker, praising him as a "great person and a great teammate," and noting that "he's treated friends and family that I've introduced to him with nothing but respect and kindness."

"I don't think that I should judge him by his views, especially his religious views, of how to go about life," he added. "That's just not who I am."

Kelce's remarks are reminiscent of the sort of casual indifference that allows dangerous, harmful beliefs to gain traction and, ultimately, oppress. It's easy to shrug and say you can get along with anyone who's nice to you when they aren't encouraging others to push back against your acceptance and safety in society.

To recap what actually happened with Butker's speech, he primarily ruffled feathers by suggesting, with complete sincerity, that the women graduating were likely "most excited about your marriage and the children you will bring into this world" rather than the prospect of using their hard-earned degrees to embark upon careers.

Kelce's comments make it sound as if Butker was merely expressing how he and these graduating students choose to order their priorities based on their religion. But he actually went much further.

His speech centered around warning these young adults against staying silent about their presumed Catholic beliefs (and against trying to study and interpret those beliefs for themselves). Butker repeatedly veered directly into political and social issues as he called President Joe Biden "delusional" for being both Catholic and in support of abortion rights, lamented "the tyranny of diversity, equity, and inclusion," and made remarks about both "the deadly sin sort of pride that has an entire month dedicated to it" and "people pushing dangerous gender ideologies onto the youth of America."

"Bad policies and poor leadership have negatively impacted major life issues," he claimed. "Things like abortion, IVF, surrogacy, euthanasia, as well as a growing support for degenerate cultural values in media, all stem from the pervasiveness of this disorder."

Having to continue to work alongside Butker in the NFL, Kelce was undoubtedly in a tricky spot. But he put himself in this position by spending years cultivating an audience specifically to listen to his opinions on issues beyond sports. And then he opted to turn this into an opportunity to praise Butker's character — a man who is clearly encouraging others to strip away women's autonomy and shun LGBTQ+ people — rather than simply acknowledging that they disagree on these matters.

Kelce may think he's taking the high road by refusing to judge Butker for his divisive rhetoric. But all he's really doing is continuing a long and storied tradition among those whose rights are never at risk, stepping aside at the first whiff of personal discomfort. What a privilege that must be.