NEW ORLEANS - One day after news broke that a former 49er has been charged with beating up his boyfriend, current 49er Chris Culliver said that gays wouldn't be welcome in the team's locker room.
Shock jock Artie Lange interviewed Culliver, the team's nickel cornerback, during Media Day on Tuesday and asked him about gay players. Lange played the brief clip on his radio show later that night.
"I don't do the gay guys, man," said Culliver, 24. "I don't do that. 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. Nah."
Culliver, who played 73 percent of the team's defensive snaps this year, said that any player who is gay should keep that a secret. "Yeah, come out 10 years later after that," he said.
The 49ers reacted Wednesday with a strongly-worded statement: "The San Francisco 49ers reject the comments that were made yesterday, and have addressed the matter with Chris," the statement read. "There is no place for discrimination within our organization at any level. We have and always will proudly support the LGBT community."
That was followed by a statement from Culliver: "The derogatory comments I made yesterday were a reflection of thoughts in my head, but they are not how I feel. 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."
Homosexuality in the locker room already was topical this week after former 49ers first-round pick Kwame Harris, an offensive tackle, appeared in court on charges he beat up an ex-boyfriend. Ravens linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo, meanwhile, has been a national story in recent months because of his vocal support for same-sex unions, including his backing of a successful referendum for marriage equality in Maryland.
Ayanbadejo has said he'd use the Super Bowl as a platform to promote gay marriage. However, he steered clear of the topic Tuesday.
"I don't want to keep touching on that subject, but obviously we're here at the Super Bowl, and it's the pinnacle of sports here in the United States so I just really want to focus," he said. "A lot of media stuff has come up with 'Ayanbadejo this and Ayanbadejo that,' but I think the most important thing is that I'm here with my team. My focus is on this football game and this is the most important game I've ever played in my life."
The 49ers, who represent the most tolerant big city on the United States, often have found themselves at the center of the discussion over gays in the locker room.
Earlier this year, they became the first NFL team to record an "It Gets Better" public service announcement, which denounced anti-gay bullying. Safety Donte Whitner, linebacker Ahmad Brooks and defensive linemen Ricky Jean-Francois and Isaac Sopoaga appeared in the message.
Whitner was asked about Ayanbadejo's stance Wednesday. "I think he's an extremely strong guy to be able to do it," Whitner said. "You know there's going to be a lot of backlash. You know there's going to be a lot of people questioning why he's doing it. But I think it's great. I think it's great for people to be who they want to be."
Culliver isn't the first 49er to say that gays aren't welcome in the team's locker room.
In 2002 running back Garrison Hearst made inflammatory comments after former defensive tackle Esera Tuaolo came out of the closet.
"Aww, hell no! I don't want any f-----s on my team," he told The Fresno Bee. "I know this might not be what people want to hear, but that's a punk. I don't want any f----s in this locker room."
Hearst later apologized.
Long-time 49ers trainer Lindsy McLean publicly revealed he was gay upon his retirement in 2004. McLean's sexual orientation was an open secret at the 49ers facility. He has said he mostly was treated with respect during more than two decades as the team's top trainer, but he also has spoken about disturbing incidents of taunting and harassment by players.
-- Matt Barrows