Teams playing in the Super Bowl try avoiding controversy at all costs leading up to the NFL championship game. But as the San Francisco 49ers have learned, you cannot control players from making controversial comments with so many reporters asking questions at the Super Bowl.
The controversy and headaches started for the 49ers when CB Chris Culliver made anti-gay remarks at Wednesday’s Super Bowl Media Day. Afterwards Culliver issued an apology, but it did not go away. LB Ahmad Brooks and NT Isaac Sopoaga denied making an It Gets Better video, which part of an anti-bullying campaign for LGBTQ teenagers.
Brooks and Sopoaga appeared in the video back in August along with teammates Ricky Jean Francois and Donte Whitner. However, a USA Today reporter approached them about the video and Brooks said the following:
I didn’t make any video. This is America and if someone wants to be gay, they can be gay. It’s their right. But I didn’t make any video.
After that he was shown the video and said,
Oh, that. It was an anti-bullying video, not a gay (rights) video.
When the reporter pointed out that most teens who are bullied is because of sexual identity issues, Brooks replied,
I know that. I know that. Okay, you’re right and I’m wrong. Are you from one of those New York newspapers?
If you thought it couldn’t get any worse, Sopoaga also denied making the video. After he was reminded by a teammate about making it, he played coy as if he didn’t know what the video was for and said someone was using ‘my name.’
Here was the exchange between the USA Today reporter and the nose tackle:
Sopoaga, too, denied making the video, even while teammate Will Tukuafu, who overheard the question, tried to refresh his memory.
“Yeah, you made that video, remember?” Tukuafu said.
“No,” Sopoaga said. “I never went. And now someone is using my name.”
Sopoaga was shown the video.
“What was that for?” he asked.
To ask teens to stop bullying other teens because of sexual identity, he was told.
“Yeah, OK,” he said.
Would you like to comment on it, he was asked.
“No,” he said.
This is a self-inflicted wound and is not the type of attention the 49ers needed two days before the Super Bowl is played. I am a supporter of LGBTQ rights and Culliver’s statement, and the denial by Brooks and Sopoaga is deplorable and not welcomed. However, I am not the kind of person to hold someone’s ignorance against them, even Niner players. Everyone had different upbringings and religious beliefs that shape their view of the world and the LGBTQ community. While this is getting a lot of attention now, I am reserving judgment on the three players. What will be important is how they handle the situation going forwarded and whether or not they do something positive to make up for their comments and denials.
The 49ers were the first team in the NFL to have players appear in the It Gets Better video campaign. At the time, Niner Noise applauded the decision because it was the right thing to do and because of how much the LGBTQ community is a part of the city of San Francisco. In response to Brooks and Sopoaga denying making the video, the campaign removed the video featuring the 49ers from its website.