Meanwhile, Back in Wisconsin: Ex-“Lambeau Leap” Footballer LeRoy Butler Gives a Four-Word Tweet of Support for Jason Collins; Loses Church Gig, But Gains More Fans for His Stand Against Homophobia

It’s getting to the place where a brother can’t even Tweet another brother a supportive and positive message, even across the Twitterverse, without someone trying to make something of it, to cast shade on the individual sending the message as well as the person receiving it.  I mean, this is what I feel is a positive message.  This was no mere masculinist shoutout.

Retired Green Bay Packer LeRoy Butler, creator of the joyful “Lambeau Leap” that is now done by not only Packers but a lot of other footballers since 1993, wasn’t asking for a rendezvous when he Tweeted a message Monday.  But from all the fuss, you’d think he’d done something at the level of former Representative Weiner.

LeRoy Butler in the very first “Lambeau Leap” in 1993. Yep, the Leap is 20 years old, but Butler has remained young in his heart (Courtesy: JSonline)

Of course, this particular Tweet had something to do with basketballer Jason Collins‘ momentous Sports Illustrated admission that he is gay.  This is all what Butler was saying to Collins:

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From the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel:

Shortly after sending a four-word message on Twitter – “Congrats to Jason Collins” — Butler got a call from a member of a church where he was scheduled to give an anti-bullying presentation this summer, he told the Journal-Sentinel on Wednesday. Butler confirmed the church is in Wisconsin, but declined to share its name or approximate location.

He assumed the call was to discuss details of the upcoming event. He said he speaks to several churches every year and that sponsors usually help the church raise money to cover his fee – in this case $8,500 – and in turn, donations are collected during the event to benefit the church. He assumed the call was to discuss event details.

Instead, Butler was told the church would cancel his presentation unless he removed the tweet, apologized and asked for God‘s forgiveness.

“This is what bothers me the most. They said, ‘If you ask for forgiveness and remove the tweet and you say something to the effect that you don’t congratulate (Collins), then we’ll let you do the engagement and get the speaker’s fee, and I said I’m not doing that,” Butler said Wednesday. “Every gay and lesbian person will say ‘You know, LeRoy doesn’t speak up for the weak or the silenced. He doesn’t stand for anything as a man and he did it for money.’ Why would you ask me to reduce my integrity like that?”

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More about his response to the church:

“So basically you’re asking me to … some 16-year-old kid is somewhere in a closet with his father’s gun that he found and he’s thinking about putting it to his head because he’s been tormented in school every single day because they may have found out he is gay, or they suspected he’s gay. He doesn’t have a voice right now. You’re asking me to take all that back so he doesn’t have a voice. I won’t do that.

“That’s taking my dignity, my respect away. I want that young man to come out of the closet, put the gun down, and you’re a part of society. When did we get to this, starting to judge who gets to be a part of what society? It just bothers me. And I told the pastor to blame it on my mom, because my mom brought me up to love everybody.”

We’ll probably never know which Wisconsin church that thought the bribe fee of $8500 of silver would be enough to make Butler “repent” of his simple words of support to Jason Collins.  (Later,  Butler voiced very public support for NFL players contemplating coming out in the wake of the upcoming Supreme Court decisions regarding gay marriage.)  Butler refused to give out the name of the pastor or of the church and its location, saying that it would cause even more problems, thus deflecting the true issue at hand.  He did not want this controversy to become a tit-for-tat thing when what was really needed, he felt, was compassion and understanding towards bullied and gay children and youth, and others who want to simply be themselves outside of the closet and are in turmoil regarding their sexuality.

Butler said he did not consider his support for Collins either religious or political.

“This is a man’s personal story. I’ve always been on the record saying if there was a gay person in the Packer locker room, I would have played with them. All I care about is if you can run and jump, and can you win Super Bowls,” Butler said.

The story almost immediately drew national attention, especially within sports circles.

LeRoy Butler invented the Lambeau Leap, but Butler the person is who’s always impressed me,” said Rachel Nichols, a longtime ESPN sports reporter now with CNN/Turner Sports, in a Twitter message.

“LeRoy Butler may have lost a speaking appearance, but he no doubt gained a lot of fans,” wrote Michael David Smith, managing editor of Pro Football Talk at NBC Sports.

No doubt.   Now comes word that Butler, who speaks on various issues on behalf of his foundation,  will be making his anti-bullying talk at St. Dunstan’s Episcopal Church in Madison in the near future.

St. Dunstan’s Episcopal Church on the city’s west side has announced that it is raising money to pay for an event featuring former Packers star LeRoy Butler, who announced earlier this week that a church he was scheduled to speak at had canceled the event after he tweeted a message of support for Jason Collins, who recently became the first NBA player to come out as gay.

“LeRoy walked away from a good amount of money in order to stand for what’s right,” said St. Dunstan’s rector Miranda Hassett in a statement. “We just want to make that right, and to let him and everyone else know that most churches join him in extending the message of love and acceptance.”

Rob Chappell, a spokesman for the church, says Butler has agreed to give an anti-bullying talk at St. Dunstan’s, the same talk he was scheduled to give at the unnamed church that canceled his appearance. His St. Dunstan’s talk has not yet been scheduled.

The church fathers that withdrew their invitation for Leroy Butler to speak have apologized privately to the ex-footballer, but mainly about not exposing their sorry asses in public, which again proves where they’re truly at.  There is also a rumor about that the church fathers are now regretting big time canceling the talk, while other fans are floored by the size of the fee that the church had offered Butler to speak, but this is neither here nor there.  Lots of sports and entertainment celebrities—big and small—speak for charities and they take a fee, a salary, a cut or work for free.

And if you think that Butler’s Tweet makes the Packers look bad or insults Packer Nation, get this:  Coach Vince Lombardi, god of Lambeau Field, had a gay brother and tried to help other gay ballers make or stay on the team.

Lombardi’s brother Harold was gay, and when Harold died in July of 2011 he was survived by his partner of 41 years — meaning their relationship began just before Vince died in September of 1970. As noted by Doug Farrar of Yahoo! Sports, Vince knew Harold was gay and didn’t just believe in “tolerance” but believed strongly that discrimination against gay people was wrong, just as he was angered when he saw mistreatment of his black players, or discrimination against his fellow Italian-Americans.

Butler’s’ foundation helps women suffering from breast cancer “[…] obtain the assistance they need to focus on the job of healing [versus] the financial impact to their families.”  Money from the foundation goes directly to patients who may be having financial struggles—-such as home foreclosures—-because they’ve spent so much on treatment and prescriptions.”  However, his appearances and talks around Wisconsin and elsewhere are not simply focused on breast cancer but on current issues like bullying.

What I love the most about this controversy that black men are shown to be supportive (and even loving in other cases) across sexualities, but there are so many people that don’t want to see this happen.  It’s a long road from self-hatred to self-respect, a self-respect that must include respecting other black men unlike self.   Especially what it would mean towards reconfiguring what black manhood truly is against societal pressures to fit in even where we as blacks are still not accepted.

As I have always known, there is no one black male sexuality or expressions of manhood as a model.  There are many.  To attempt to conform to such a one-sided view of manhood—what is called enforced heterosexism among feminists—without knowing or understanding that there are healthy and spiritual alternatives of being makes adults and children commit abuse and murder and for adults and children to commit suicide.  Remember Matthew Shepard?  The year of his murder, 1998, was chosen by Jason Collins as his jersey number.  Remember Carl Joseph Walker Hoover?  He was the eleven-year-old Massachusetts football player who was viciously tormented by a charter school gang that included a girl, all because they thought that he was gay.  Despite his mother’s conferences with school officials, poor Carl hung himself, feeling that he was all alone.

Saving and honoring and respecting lives is most important.  This, I think, was LeRoy Butler’s simple message to Jason Collins: that he has Butler’s support for being himself.    I applaud LeRoy Butler for not subscribing to homophobia and hatred.  That should always be the response for the next generations coming up.

~ by blksista on May 3, 2013.

 
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