NFL Star Denounces ‘Dangerous Gender Ideologies’ During Commencement Speech

One of the NFL’s top placekickers urged graduates during a commencement speech to prioritize their faith over their career and to resist the “lies” society teaches about gender, saying they should “move closer and closer to God’s will” instead of living a work-centric life. Three-time Super Bowl winner and outspoken Catholic Harrison Butker made the comments during the commencement address on May 11 at Benedictine College, a Catholic school in Atchison, Kan.   

“The cost of living must not be the only arbiter of your choices — for a life without God is not a life at all,” he said. “And the cost of salvation is worth more than any career.”

Butker criticized “people pushing dangerous gender ideologies onto the youth of America” and noted that many of them self-identify as Catholic. Earlier in his speech, he denounced President Biden without saying his name explicitly, noting the president had once made “the sign of the cross during a pro-abortion rally.”

“This is an important reminder that being Catholic alone doesn’t cut it,” Butker said. 

“If we are going to be men and women for this time in history, we need to stop pretending that the church of nice is a winning proposition,” he said. “We must always speak and act in charity, but never mistake charity for cowardice.”

Christians must speak the truth even when it is uncomfortable, he said. 

“The world around us says that we should keep our beliefs to ourselves whenever they go against the tyranny of diversity, equity and inclusion. We fear speaking truth, because now unfortunately, truth is in the minority. … We need our bishops to be vocal about the teachings of the church, setting aside their own personal comfort and embracing their cross. Our bishops are not politicians, but shepherds. So instead of fitting in the world by going along to get along, they too need to stay in their lane, and lead.”

The world has an unbiblical view of the differences between men and women, he asserted. Addressing the females in the audience, he said it is “women who have had the most diabolical lies told to you.”

“How many of you are sitting here now about to cross the stage, and are thinking about all the promotions and titles you’re going to get in your career? Some of you may go on to lead successful careers in the world,” he said. “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 began living her vocation as a wife and as a mother,” he said. “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 am 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.”

Moments later, Butker addressed the males in the crowd.

“Part of what plagues our society is this lie that has been told to you that men are not necessary in the home or in our communities,” Butker said. “As men, we set the tone of the culture. And when that is absent, disorder, dysfunction and chaos set in. This absence of men in the home is what plays a large role in the violence we see all around the nation. Other countries do not have nearly the same absentee father rates as we find here in the U.S. And a correlation can be made in their drastically lower violence rates as well. 

“Be unapologetic in your masculinity — fighting against the cultural emasculation of men. Do hard things. Never settle for what is easy. You might have a talent that you don’t necessarily enjoy. But if it glorifies God, maybe you should lean into that over something that you might think suits you better. I speak from experience as an introvert who now finds myself as an amateur public speaker, and an entrepreneur, something I never thought I’d be when I received my industrial engineering degree.”

The road for America’s youth is bright, he said, because people, young and old, “are embracing tradition.” He noted that Benedictine College, a conservative Catholic school, has seen its enrollment double in the past two decades. 

“I am certain the reporters at the AP could not have imagined that their attempt to rebuke and embarrass places and people like those here at Benedictine wouldn’t be met with anger, but instead met with excitement and pride — not the deadly 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,” he said.

The NFL star also encouraged college graduates to surround themselves with people of faith.

“I say this all the time that iron sharpens iron. It’s a great reminder that those closest to us should be making us better,” he said. “If you’re dating someone who doesn’t even share your faith, how do you expect that person to help you become a saint? If your friend group is filled with people who only think about what you’re doing next weekend, and are not willing to have those difficult conversations, how can they help sharpen you as you prepare to enter into the workforce?”

A life of faith, Butker said, is essential for joy.

“I’ve 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.”

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Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and news for 20 years. His stories have appeared in Baptist Press, Christianity Today, The Christian Post, the Leaf-Chronicle, the Toronto Star and the Knoxville News-Sentinel.

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