The week before the Superbowl this year, 49ers cornerback Chris Culliver — who incidentally was the token random 49er whom I followed on Twitter — came out as a homophone. During an interview he was asked if there were gay players on the team and he responded: “No, we don’t got no gay people on the team, they gotta get up out of here if they do…. Can’t be with that sweet stuff. Nah…can’t be…in the locker room man…“
There was an outcry over the statements: the mayor tweeted about it; gay rights groups released statements; and, predictably Culliver made a promise to do community service and make amends with the LGBT community.
The Superbowl came, and unfortunately went. A month later, I saw on Twitter that Culliver has made good on his promise to reach out. He visited the Trevor Project, a suicide hotline for LGBT youth in crisis, and he tweeted a photo with the caption, “Great time at LGBTQ the Q is for (question) @CreativeEdgePRS.”
The fact that Culliver not very subtly copied his public relations firm on his tweet says a lot. But my guess — and since this is my goddam informal blog about what I think I’m going to guess, dammit — my guess is that Culliver also had a sincere experience at the Trevor Project. Who’s to say he didn’t connect to some of the people with whom he spoke? Who’s to say he wasn’t genuinely interested to learn that, as he put it, “the Q [in LGBTQ] is for (question)”?
The context for this whole situation is complicated. We live in an age in which it is politically incorrect to be homophobic, homophobia is still rampant — especially in a place like the NFL — and both the Trevor Project and Culliver have things to gain by collaborating. And on top of it all, as the nod to @CreativeEdgePRS acknowledges, Culliver’s visit had a lot to gain from this. And yet, take a closer look and I imagine that this story is about real people engaged in real meaningful interactions.
In the past year I’ve been able to see culture more in this way. Culture is a complicated muddle, it’s mostly characterized by superficiality and commercialization, but, as a sociologist might say, everyone has agency. But more than agency, everyone can create meaning for themselves in small, authentic and creative ways — and to a large extent, people do.