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May 22, 2024

The Placekicker’s Extra(ordinary) Point

We pretend to celebrate diversity and inclusion — then one person dares to contradict the new orthodoxy, and the world goes nuts.

It shouldn’t have been controversial at all. A devout Catholic named Harrison Butker was invited to give the commencement address at a Catholic college, and he delivered a profoundly Catholic message. What’s wrong with that?

But snippets of his address leaked out, and within hours we learned, to feminists’ horror, that Mr. Butker had poisoned the Benedictine College graduates’ impressionable young minds with his Neanderthal views about life and family. By nightfall, his incendiary remarks were big news coast to coast, eliciting heaps of abuse.

Until last week, the name Harrison Butker was well-known only by serious football fans. He is the placekicker for the NFL champion Kansas City Chiefs. As a rule, kickers are ignored —until they miss an extra point or a critical field goal, whereupon they are vilified unsparingly. Butker is one of the best at his job — he’s learned to thrive close to that edge, perhaps making it easier for him to toss out thoughts that just might upset a few folks.

His commencement address was well crafted and well delivered, a positive, uplifting, personal, and thoroughly Catholic message. One of his central themes — the one that set his detractors’ hair on fire — was directed to the women graduates. “Some of you may go on to successful careers,” 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.”

Heresy! The reaction was swift and vicious. The instant media interpretation was that Butker believes women should be relegated to the dreary life of a homemaker — either incapable or undeserving to share in the cornucopia of professional success long available to men. The critics were aghast. How can anyone in this day and age be so clueless about the glass ceiling that has imprisoned women for generations? This dolt probably spends his free time watching “Leave It to Beaver” reruns!

The National Football League piled on immediately, disowning Butker’s remarks via a statement from the league’s Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer: “The NFL is steadfast in our commitment to inclusion, which only makes our league stronger.” Evidently, the league’s dedication to inclusion does not extend to Butker’s views on family life. And note the stark distinction between the NFL’s swoon over Colin Kaepernick’s ugly America-hating antics a few years ago and Harrison Butker’s testament last week to the fundamental importance of family.

Back home in Kansas City, a petition demanded that the Chiefs fire their misguided kicker. An op-ed in the Kansas City Star proposed replacing him — a player who contributed mightily to the team’s huge success in recent years — with a female kicker. (While they’re at it, they might want to swap out a couple of their big, knuckle-dragging, overly aggressive, and probably sexist linemen in exchange for players who better reflect the organization’s journalists’ core values. No worries, the fans will understand…)

But of course, there’s another side. Don’t take at face value the media’s assertion of universal outrage over Butker’s message. The Benedictine College graduates, faculty, and guests sure seemed to like it — they responded with a standing ovation. And reportedly, sales of Kansas City Chiefs jerseys with Butker’s #7 are currently outselling those with the Chief’s MVP quarterback Patrick Mahomes’s number, as well as those of celebrity tight end Travis Kelce. (That strikes me as another of those implicitly valid indicators of true public reaction, not unlike beer drinkers’ wholesale rejection of Bud Light.)

But most importantly, we should recognize that this kerfuffle is not just another silly partisan argument between woke folks and the rest of us. There is intractable truth in Butker’s message that deserves serious consideration.

Let’s connect a few dots from among the worrisome trends of American life:

  • For decades, we have been trumpeting the successes of women in professional roles, with the unintentional effect of simultaneously devaluing the role of mother and homemaker.
  • We’re seeing lower marriage rates, higher divorce rates, and a crushing increase in single-parent (usually single-mom) child-rearing — often with devastating consequences.
  • There is the new confusion posited by the transgender movement. Butker touched on that issue, although if he’d mentioned that only biological women can produce babies, he might have ignited World War III.
  • And, quite possibly linked to the above, we are facing a dangerously declining birth rate in this country and worldwide.

No, Harrison Butker has not stumbled on a magic fix to what ails a civilization that seems to be in steady decline. But he reminded us — all of us, thanks to our media’s compulsion to pass on any bad news — that the nuclear family is the core building block of a stable, healthy, and productive society. His message was wholly consistent with his Catholic faith, but it was not really a religious message at all — it is a fundamental truth.

He expressed his views thoughtfully and clearly, and he did not force them on anyone. There is no reason in the world why we can’t all respect those views, and there are very good reasons why we should take them to heart.

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