Kansas City Chiefs’ celebratory trip to the White House comes with undercurrent of tension


Friday’s visit by the Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue conveys an underlying level of tension not often felt during championship celebrations at the White House.

It’s only been a few weeks since Chiefs kicker Harrison Butker criticized President Joe Biden, who is Catholic, and other unnamed Catholic leaders for “pushing dangerous gender ideologies on America’s youth” — an apparent reference to transgender rights. His commencement speech at Benedictine College also contained many other controversial statements, such as attacks on LGBTQ people, calling Pride Month a “mortal sin,” deploring diversity and equity initiatives, and suggesting that women find more fulfillment by marrying and having children than by their careers. .

“I want to speak to you directly briefly because I think it is you women who have told the most evil lies,” Butker, also Catholic, said during his speech.

“How many of you are sitting here about to take this step and thinking about all the promotions and titles you are going to get during your career? Some of you may go on to successful careers in the world, but I would venture to guess that the majority of you are very excited about your marriage and the children you will bring into the world.

Butker also praised his wife, Isabelle, saying she “would be the first to say that her life truly began when she began to live out her calling as a wife and mother.”

His criticism of Biden and the swirling controversy around Butker after the speech went viral led to speculation that the kicker – who wore a tie with an anti-abortion phrase to the White House last year during the Chiefs’ last visit to celebrate a Super Bowl win — would skip the visit this year.

At this point he should be present. Asked if Butker would come to the White House with the rest of the team, Chiefs head coach Andy Reid told reporters last week, “Oh, I’m sure he will.” will do, yeah.

Benedictine College

Harrison Butker speaking at Benedictine College.

This could create an awkward moment if the president and kicker interact. When asked at a press briefing earlier this month whether the White House expected Butker to attend the festivities at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre declined to comment on the situation.

“Honestly, what I can say is that we invite the whole team and we always do – I don’t have anything else to offer,” she told reporters. “We invite the team, it’s an invitation that goes to the team, and therefore it’s up to the team who comes and who doesn’t come.”

Since his speech, some of Butker’s most high-profile teammates have distanced themselves from his views, although they say they view the three-time Super Bowl champion as a person. Star tight end Travis Kelce said last week that he didn’t agree with anything Butker said, but he still believes the kicker “is in every way a great person and a great teammate.” . Quarterback Patrick Mahomes told reporters that Butker was a “good person” even though he “didn’t necessarily agree” with his comments.

The NFL distanced itself from Butker’s comments, saying through a spokesperson that his views are “not those of the NFL as an organization.”

Butker, for his part, isn’t backing down from his comments and the controversy that followed.

“If it wasn’t clear that timeless Catholic values ​​are hated by many, it is now,” Butker said during a speech at the Courage Under Fire gala in Nashville Friday night, hosted by the Regina Caeli Academy.

While Butker’s presence is expected at this point, there is one high-profile Chiefs fan whose presence is not expected at this point.

Taylor Swift, the global superstar who is dating Kelce, is not expected at the White House on Friday because she is in Europe as part of her extensive Eras tour. Swift performed a concert in Madrid on Thursday evening before her visit and will travel to Lyon, France, later in the weekend.

The visit caps a particularly high-profile season for the Chiefs after Swift and Kelce went public with their relationship early in the season. It ended with a feat not accomplished in two decades by an NFL team – a back-to-back Super Bowl championship, the fourth in Chiefs history and the third in the last five years.

The celebrations in Kansas City were tragically brief. On February 14, one person was killed and 20 others injured in a mass shooting that took place just moments after the celebration parade and pep rally ended. Two men were charged with murder in the shooting, which began after a clash between two groups of people and was not linked to terrorism.

It was a violent and sad end to what had been a historic season on the field.

Kelce, who had already amassed a storied career that will likely send him to the Hall of Fame when he eventually follows his brother Jason into retirement, became a celebrity outside of the football world thanks to his relationship with Swift. Although his performance on the field declined from his incredible 2022 season, he still played well enough to be rewarded with a contract extension that made him the highest-paid tight end in the league.

For his quarterback, Mahomes, the victory against the San Francisco 49ers in Las Vegas consolidated the former Texas Tech as one of the greatest quarterbacks in the history of the game, even if he is only six years old. career and is not yet 30 years old.

He said last year’s visit to the Oval Office was one of the highlights of his career.

“I mean, I’ve never been to Washington, D.C. — I’ve never even had a chance to look outside, see the White House or any of the monuments or memorials,” Mahomes said to journalists at the time. “And so, to be able to be here and see this, and see the history of this great nation that we have, it was really cool for me to be here and to be in the present moment, and I don’t think that I could never really imagine it being as cool as it was.

CNN’s Donald Judd, AJ Willingham, Matias Grez and Keith Allen contributed to this report.

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