San Francisco 49ers cornerback Chris Culliver apologized Wednesday night for anti-gay remarks he made during a Super Bowl media day interview a day earlier.
"The derogatory comments I made yesterday were a reflection of thoughts in my head, but they are not how I feel," he said in a statement released by the team. "It has taken me seeing them in print to realize that they are hurtful and ugly. Those discriminating feelings are truly not in my heart. Further, I apologize to those who I have hurt and offended, and I pledge to learn and grow from this experience."
The 49ers said earlier Wednesday they had addressed the comments but didn't elaborate on whether the second-year player would face disciplinary action or a fine.
During an interview Tuesday at the Superdome, Culliver responded to questions from comedian Artie Lange by saying he wouldn't welcome a gay player in the locker room. He also said the 49ers didn't have any homosexual players and, if they did, those players should leave.
"The San Francisco 49ers reject the comments that were made yesterday, and have addressed the matter with Chris," the team said. "There is no place for discrimination within our organization at any level. We have and always will proudly support the LGBT community."
"It’s surprising that in 2013 Chris Culliver would use his 15 minutes to spread vitriol and hate. I recognize that these are comments that he may come to regret and that he may come to see that gay people are not so different than straight people," Harris told NBC Bay Area.
Culliver planned to formally address his remarks during a news conference during the 49ers' media availability Thursday morning, according to his personal public relations representative, Theodore Palmer.
The interview Tuesday began with Lange asking Culliver about his sexual plans with women during Super Bowl week. Lange followed up with a question about whether Culliver would consider pursuing a gay man.
"I don't do the gay guys, man. I don't do that," Culliver said during the 1-minute taped interview. "Ain't got no gay people on the team. They gotta get up outta here if they do. Can't be with that sweet stuff."
Lange asked Culliver to reiterate his thoughts, to which the player said, "It's true." He added he wouldn't welcome a gay teammate — no matter how talented.
"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.
The 49ers participate in the NFL's "It Gets Better" anti-bullying campaign. The city of San Francisco and progressive, open-minded Bay Area are home to a large gay community.
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. Culliver's current views are as marginal as they are misguided. We're seeing more and more NFL players take a stand against homophobia in sports through our advocacy and we know that support at this level is only going to grow. It is becoming clear that discrimination is on the fringe and has absolutely no place in sports."