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May 2nd, 2013
12:52 PM ET

Ex-NFL player's support for gay NBA player apparently costs him church appearance

By Dan Merica, CNN
[twitter-follow screen_name='DanMericaCNN']

Washington (CNN) – LeRoy Butler, a former safety for the Green Bay Packers, is one of many professional athletes to tweet support for Jason Collins, the NBA player who came out as gay this week.

“Congrats to Jason Collins,” Butler tweeted April 29, the day Collins came out in a Sports Illustrated cover story.

But Butler says the four-word tweet cost him a speaking appearance at a Wisconsin church.

He was scheduled to speak at the church (whose name he has not revealed) about bullying and his new book, "The LeRoy Butler Story: From Wheelchair to the Lambeau Leap." That was until the church, according to Butler, told him he was no longer welcome because of his tweet in support of Collins.

"The pastor called me and that's when we got into the old, the whole religion thing about gay people and things of that nature and the conversation just went back and forth for us a couple of minutes," Butler told Anderson Cooper on Thursday.

After the exchange with the pastor, Butler took to twitter to express his frustration.

Butler later tweeted that “some parents went to the church and complained about my tweet” supporting Collins. The church, according to Butler, said that if the football player apologized, he would be allowed to speak.

"They basically said this, if you apologize, ask God for forgiveness and remove the tweet, you'll be able to do this speaking engagement with the kids," he said. "I won't do that. That's taking my dignity and respect away."

He continued: "I told the pastor, blame it on my mom because my mom brought me up to love everybody."

Butler recently tweeted that the church apologized for the incident and thanked him “for not releasing the church name.”

Butler played 11 years, from 1990 to 2001, with the Packers and helped them win a Super Bowl in 1997. He was a four-time All-Pro selection, the highest honor for a year of work in the NFL, and is credited with inventing the Lambeau Leap, the iconic touchdown celebration in which a Packer leaps into the Lambeau Field stands to celebrate with fans.

As for Butler's stance on gay athletes in professional sports, he said they have "support from straight guys like me that won't judge them."

"If we win a Super Bowl ring, I don't care who you bring to the ring ceremony, I just want to win the ring," Butler said. "That's what it's all about. ... Isn't that what it's all about? Winning the championship? Not who is in my bed when I turn the lights out."

Since retiring, Butler has been active in the Green Bay community, and his Facebook page chronicles appearances and speeches he has given to churches in the area.

- Dan Merica

Filed under: Belief • Same-sex marriage

soundoff (3,002 Responses)
  1. NotFoolinMe

    Don't sweat it LeRoy. You don't want their ignorant hate money anyway.

    May 3, 2013 at 7:19 am |
  2. SoPoJim

    So this church thinks it's ok to discriminate? Do they call themselves Christians? Would Christ want to be associated with this church?

    May 3, 2013 at 7:19 am |
  3. jnpa

    It cost him his church appearance? No big loss. That church wasn't worth it anyway.

    May 3, 2013 at 7:06 am |
    • Tom K

      Then don't be a christian. It really is that simple.

      May 3, 2013 at 7:08 am |
    • Truth Prevails :-)

      Tom: Anyone with a working brain doesn't want to be christian....the hate that it preaches is not something anyone should be proud of.

      May 3, 2013 at 7:29 am |
  4. Tom K

    And this is my issue with gays ; it's not that they're gay, but they expect everyone to agree with their lifestyle. You have the right to be gay, and others have the right to denounce it. Sadly, some ill informed tool will respond with ' would you disallow someone to speak because they're black ' and this is my other problem with gays ; stop piggybacking the civil rights movement. It's disrespectful. Being gay at any time in life doesn't even come close to the plight of being black decades or centuries ago. In conclusion, I don't oppose gay rights, I oppose annoying gays who feel the need to try and hijack religion. Seems like every 10 minutes, CNN is running a story with an anti christian theme. Which is fine ; but what I don't get, is if christians are so backward, so sinister, how come so many are breaking their neck to be a part of it all ? This just reminds me of the kid who whines because he was picked last in kick ball.

    May 3, 2013 at 7:05 am |
    • freedom of speech both ways

      thank you; your post is refreshing!

      May 3, 2013 at 7:09 am |
    • Rafael

      So much ignorance and confused thinking in one little post.

      May 3, 2013 at 7:10 am |
    • JT

      And yet this story is about Christians trying to force their beliefs on others. No criticism there, huh? Hypocrite!

      May 3, 2013 at 7:17 am |
    • Sam

      Great post @Tom K. CNN and the loony left just couldn't wait to find some slight against "the big announcement". Get a life, not everyone has to agree with your life choices, move on already.

      May 3, 2013 at 7:23 am |
    • Truth Prevails :-)

      Tom: You're a bigot! Being gay is natural, not a lifestyle! Is being hetero a lifestyle?? It can all be turned around and the church is being bigoted and ignorant in their stance...such hypocrisy!

      May 3, 2013 at 7:25 am |
    • Just a guy

      I wish we could fast forward 25 years and then your older self could read your post, scratch your head and say "What the hell was wrong with me?" Someday, even a cement head like you might wake up. You think gays asking for acceptance and equal rights are annoying? Poor baby. I find ignorance and bigotry to be annoying. But don't feel sorry for me, because I am on the right side of history, and you are not.

      May 3, 2013 at 7:28 am |
    • Stevo

      Tom, you are far from enlightened.

      May 3, 2013 at 7:36 am |
    • sophia

      no one expects you to accept anything. asking for equal rights IS a civil rights issue. (black, white, gay or muslim)
      i have to shake my head when people like Tom try to equate wanting equal rights with requiring or wanting you to accept anyone or the way they live their life. (not lifestyle...lifestyle is how you decorate your world, not what you are....gay is not a lifestyle)
      you are free to be a close minded idiot (not you personally- but generally), who can drive, marry, have kids and worship as you see fit. you are free to care for, live with, love, and create a beautiful life with whomever you choose. every american should have that right. and guess what, if everyone is allowed the same rights, none of that will affect you or yours!
      walk away. change the channel. go to another business, church, school. vote the way you believe.
      but please stop acting like your options and beliefs should be mine or worse law.
      laws should make us safer and "more free" to pursue happiness in the form we each choose for ourselves.
      not restrict us to one mindset.
      you sound like someone who is educated. use that to say, "thats not for me, but go for it anyone who wants. i can ignore or walk away from what i don't like." those that feel the same will nod or follow. as is THEIR RIGHT.

      May 3, 2013 at 8:00 am |
    • SW

      Amen!!!!! I'm glad someone finally made this point clear!

      May 3, 2013 at 8:02 am |
    • Doc Vestibule

      @Tom K
      "Being gay at any time in life" – this statement implies that you believe people turn it on and off – "today I'm gay, tomorrow I'm straight" – but it doesn't work that way.
      While it is important not to stretch the parallels too far, there are a number of similarities between the struggle for racial equality and the fight for gay rights.
      Remember that the Supreme Court didn't strike down anti-miscagenation laws until 1967. Before then, many states made interracial marriage a crime.
      Under federal law, there are 1,138 benefits, rights and protections provided on the basis of marital status.
      And lest we forget, when the American south was forced to rescind Jim Crow laws and accept racial integration, it was vociferous Christians who most strongly opposed equality (most egrgiously, the Baptists).
      Wallie Criswell, an extremely popular and influential Southern Baptist Minister famously said "Let them integrate! Let them sit up there in their dirty shirts and make all their fine speeches. But they are all a bunch of infidels, dying from the neck up."
      Scarcely half a century later, the zeitgeist has shifted so radically that such open racism is considered abhorrent to the very same Christian sect that spouted scripture to justify insti.tutionalized bigotry.
      The prevailing Christian condemnation of ho.mose.xuality will soon be viewed with the same sense of shame that the memory of segregation elicits.

      May 3, 2013 at 8:21 am |
  5. freedom of speech both ways

    this man has his choice to support gays and the church has its choice not to; but to stick to its core beliefs. so why is the church being scrutinized. oh i get it...they are bigots. oh me, i am sooo slow!

    May 3, 2013 at 7:04 am |
    • Stevo

      The church can have their own bigoted views. It's their right. But where they crossed the line is when they told Leroy Butler that he could come and speak if he apologized, deleted the tweets, and asked for forgiveness. Sounds like extortion. Way to go, Christianity!

      May 3, 2013 at 7:22 am |
    • Truth Prevails :-)

      Yes freedom you are slow. The church supposedly preaches love for all but yet their hypocrisy when it comes to anything that doesn't agree with their fairy tale shows anything but love. Intolerance of their intolerance is a good thing.

      May 3, 2013 at 7:27 am |
  6. james of the house

    good for you Mr Butler!
    Churches are losing their flocks all the time and not being renewed, change is slow but coming.
    I'm sorry to hear of the financial loss.

    May 3, 2013 at 7:00 am |
    • freedom of speech both ways

      everything will pass away, but the truth will never fade

      May 3, 2013 at 7:11 am |
  7. Ohmy

    Okay, for the sake of arguement lets go with the idea that everything in the bible is correct/accurate. So being gay is a sin and therefore the good people of the "church" cannot have anything to do with a person who is supportive of someone who is a sinner.

    If we use that logic then it is safe to say that the people of the church cannot support or have anything to do with any human walking this earth as the bible says we are all sinners...

    JUST SAYIN...

    May 3, 2013 at 6:56 am |
    • NYOD

      Do not expect logic from these people. They have no idea about the contents of their own holy book. Many of them can't even read.

      May 3, 2013 at 6:59 am |
  8. BO

    When is Spike Lee going to come out of the closet?

    May 3, 2013 at 6:55 am |
    • NYOD

      Why, do you want to date him?

      May 3, 2013 at 7:00 am |
  9. jim atmad

    Leave it to a 'church' to require that somebody demand asking forgiveness for being accepting of another human being....

    ...in exchange for an opportunity to speak its members about bullying.

    The fact that the 'church' can't see the irony of their position is amazing.

    May 3, 2013 at 6:54 am |
  10. LarryW

    Good for you – Stand up for who you are and your beliefs. The rest are hippocrates and preach one thing and practice another. They (and the preacher of that Church) will find their pearly gates locked when they get there. (If they ever arrive)

    May 3, 2013 at 6:51 am |
    • SlackMeyer

      You mean they're ancient Greek physicians?

      May 3, 2013 at 6:57 am |
  11. Peter Bishop

    They have the right to support their views, just as he has the right to tweet his. Get over it.

    May 3, 2013 at 6:49 am |
    • Rafael

      And we have the right to criticize it. Get over it.

      May 3, 2013 at 7:13 am |
    • Desdemona's Bane

      And that is the whole point here. They have the right to hold their opinions and we have the right to criticize their opinions. The dialogue this facilitates allows both sides to gain greater understanding and openness about the issue. This is how people learn to live together in a community. This is how bigoted, ignorant, prejudiced ideas get eliminated and people's rights get strengthened. The right to debate it all is crucial to keep us from winding up like Somalia or Eritrea where the government kills people summarily for anything perceived to be against the party line.

      May 3, 2013 at 7:40 am |
  12. RedPriest1

    One of the many hypocrisies of christianity. Butler is not gay he merely supported, in a tweet, a persons right to be gay. While not religious myself I do understand that Jesus taught tolerance and to love your fellow man. (no pun intended) His speech was supposed to be about his personal struggles and not about gays and lesbians and his personal acceptance and support of a gay person. If Christians cleaned out their own closets the pews would be empty.

    May 3, 2013 at 6:48 am |
    • demovsemperor

      HEY liberals, I guess Political Correctness goes in both directions, how do you like being on the receiving end of it, not a good feeling right?

      May 3, 2013 at 6:50 am |
  13. Stevo

    Wow. We have to be tolerant of the church's intolerance. That makes a lot of sense.

    May 3, 2013 at 6:47 am |
  14. DIna

    He continued: "I told the pastor, blame it on my mom because my mom brought me up to love everybody."
    Great answer. Elect this guy to the senate. At least he stands up for what he believes.

    May 3, 2013 at 6:46 am |
  15. SlackMeyer

    I don't want to hear any bull cookies about "intolerance" and "bigotry" on the part of the church. Whenever some public figure (Benjamin Carson, CEO of Chik-fil-A, etc,etc, etc) says they support traditional marriage or don't agree with the gay lifestyle, the gay community, the left and the media (I repeat myself) go apoplectic. They demand those people be fired from their jobs, ban them from speaking at their universities, boycott their businesses, and, in some cases, want them, and their families killed.

    May 3, 2013 at 6:45 am |
    • demovsemperor

      Thank you, the most truthful comment on this board.

      May 3, 2013 at 6:52 am |
    • DIna

      Wow, listen to Fox much? I'm proudly liberal. The church stood for what they believed, Butler stood for what he believed. Progress is when Butler chose to take a stand instead of acquiescing to an organized religion as people have done for hundreds of years for no reason other than tradition. Stop lumping "all liberals" into one generalization. It's like calling all conservatives lying, cheating, abortion clinic bombers.

      May 3, 2013 at 6:52 am |
    • freedom of speech both ways

      thank you

      May 3, 2013 at 7:07 am |
  16. Jesus

    I too support gay rights so I now have a guilt free excuse not to go to church and donate money to god on Sundays.

    May 3, 2013 at 6:43 am |
  17. Johnny

    Wait! I thought there was a war on Christianity! What happened?

    May 3, 2013 at 6:41 am |
    • NYOD

      With Christians, it's hard to know from one day to the next if they're going to play the victim or became the perpetrator.

      May 3, 2013 at 7:17 am |
  18. nuclear mike

    People do not have to agree with being gay and a church refusing to let this man speak after his support of Collins is their choice, not his. It's a free country still, right? Where churches & people can agree or not to supporting gayness.

    May 3, 2013 at 6:36 am |
    • Neng Xiong

      This country, indeed, is a free country. Just as the church was free to dishonor its contract with him, Leroy Butler was free to disclose the name of that ignorant church; but Mr. Butler refused to. His was a noble and magnanimous gesture. Shame on that "moral", and ignorant church.

      May 3, 2013 at 6:50 am |
    • NYOD

      '.': Afraid to even choose a name for yourself? Your father probably beat you as a kid for being a wuss.

      May 3, 2013 at 7:07 am |
  19. johnjon33

    how very christian of them.

    May 3, 2013 at 6:35 am |
    • .

      exactly would you expect them to invite a thief in to rob them or any other unrepentant sinner

      May 3, 2013 at 6:37 am |
    • Albert911emt

      ., what kind of username is . ? Anyway, who are you to judge who is a sinner and who isn't?

      May 3, 2013 at 6:44 am |
    • JackRaven

      A response to '.' I'm going to call you 'Dottie'. So, Dottie, what is 'the truth'?

      May 3, 2013 at 6:50 am |
    • NYOD

      '.': unrepentant sinner? You are obviously mentally ill, as are other so-called 'religious' people who preach intolerance and hatred. Useless pathetic loser whose happiness depends on making life miserable for other people.

      May 3, 2013 at 7:09 am |
  20. G

    If we win a Super Bowl ring, I don't care who you bring to the ring ceremony, I just want to win the ring," Butler said. "That's what it's all about. ... Isn't that what it's all about? Winning the championship? Not who is in my bed when I turn the lights out."

    That's correct Mr. Butler. Congratulate Mr. Collins when he wins a championship, not when he publicly announces what you say is irrelevant.

    May 3, 2013 at 6:32 am |
    • Rafael

      Way over your head.

      May 3, 2013 at 7:17 am |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.