“It Gets Better” takes down 49ers’ video after players deny making it

Coming on the heels of San Francisco 49ers cornerback Chris Culliver suggesting that no gay people play on the 49ers, and if the do, they should leave, comes a new revelation that isn’t going to win the team any friends in the gay community.

The 49ers much-acclaimed “It Gets Better” video just got worse.  Two of the four players who made the anti-bullying video are now denying their involvement after finding out that the video’s purpose was to stop the bullying of lgbt teens.  Both seemed particularly uncomfortable in an interview today with USA Today Sports when they found out they were helping lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender kids.

Dan Savage, who founded the “It Gets Better” project, announced tonight that he has removed the San Francisco 49ers video from the project archive.

It Gets Better removes San Francisco 49ers video

Dan Savage, founder of the “It Gets Better” project, announced last night that the 49ers’ video has been removed from the project.

From Kevin Manahan at USA Today Sports, who got the scoop on this story:

At first, [Ahmad] Brooks and [Isaac] Sopoaga, approached by USA TODAY Sports, denied being part of the project.

“I didn’t make any video,” Brooks said. “This is America and if someone wants to be gay, they can be gay. It’s their right. But I didn’t make any video.”

When told USA TODAY Sports had seen the video and he was in it, Brooks replied, “I don’t remember that. I think if I made a video, I’d remember it.”

He was shown the video on an iPhone.

“Oh, that. It was an anti-bullying video, not a gay (rights) video,” he said.

When told that studies show that the majority of teens who are bullied are harassed over sexual identity issues, Brooks thought for a second.

“I know that. I know that,” he said. “Okay, you’re right and I’m wrong. Are you from one of those New York newspapers?”

Manahan goes on to detail his interview with Sopoaga, which goes about just as well.

The Huffington Post’s top story on their home page summed up how a lot of us are feeling about the 49ers right about now:

san francisco 49ers gay

I’m sure we’ll be reading another apology written by another PR flak any moment now.  The 49ers are in the Super Bowl on Sunday and the team’s recent gay-baiting-palooza has got to be an unwelcome distraction.

What is the matter with these people?  I’ll tell you.  Homophobia still rules in a lot of places, top among them, professional sports.  There’s a reason there are no openly-gay NFL players.  Who would want to be associated with any of these bigoted jerks?

Follow me on Twitter: @aravosis | @americablog | @americabloggay | Facebook | Instagram | Google+ | LinkedIn. John Aravosis is the Executive Editor of AMERICAblog, which he founded in 2004. He has a joint law degree (JD) and masters in Foreign Service from Georgetown; and has worked in the US Senate, World Bank, Children's Defense Fund, the United Nations Development Programme, and as a stringer for the Economist. He is a frequent TV pundit, having appeared on the O'Reilly Factor, Hardball, World News Tonight, Nightline, AM Joy & Reliable Sources, among others. John lives in Washington, DC. .

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100 Responses to ““It Gets Better” takes down 49ers’ video after players deny making it”

  1. FunMe says:

    Oops they lost. Wonder why? ;-)

  2. ronbo says:

    It didn’t get better for the bigoted 49ers. I’m crying crocodile tears. Hope their jobs vanish. Now that they are bigoting up the city of Santa Clara, the cash cows in SanFran may mooooove on.

  3. darklight_413 says:

    I used to live in L.A. and went to S.F. quite a lot. I can tell you I never felt safe in S.F. except in the Castro. I’ve had people yell gay slurs at me just walking down Market Street. I don’t carry around a sign that I’m gay and I don’t run around in high heels and a feather boa or wave a rainbow flag everywhere I go. The point is, there’s no reason to assume I’m straight OR gay but I’ve been called a “fag” more than once just walking down the street, I assume for just being near the Castro. S.F. hasn’t been all that gay friendly for me from what I’ve experienced. People just assume it is because it was the first place to be open about it. I was actually surprised when I heard the 49’ers did an “It Get’s Better” video. I can’t say I’m surprised, hurt, but not surprised, to hear any of this now though.

    I continually try to think the best of people but time and time again, I’m slapped in the face by the fact that it’s not as good as I think or hope it is. I’m encouraged by the recent events with Maine, Maryland and Washington standing up for equality. But, judging by these guys saying they didn’t know they were making a video about bullying lgbt kids makes me wonder how many people who voted for marriage equality in these states didn’t really know what they were voting for either. I think I give people too much credit. My mom even still preaches to me about “repenting” every time I get on the phone with her and it’s been 26 years since she found out I was gay.

    Honestly, it hasn’t gotten better for me personally as I’ve gotten older. I never had problems in school growing up because I was fortunately one of the “popular” crowd (but, I never bullied anyone). Now it seems that people feel they have a “right” to hate me just for the thought that I might be gay because somehow, by existing, I’m threatening their “freedom of speech” and they don’t mind telling me so. I have a few very close straight friends that I love and trust and who care about me, who are intelligent and very accepting but, I can’t say I trust anybody else.

  4. Ninong says:

    You’re doing a lot more creative interpretation of what I wrote than what I meant. I meant exactly what I wrote. I don’t need your extensive analysis of what else I might have meant.

  5. Jafafa Hots says:

    SF is a “money mecca” and that’s about it at this point.

  6. Jafafa Hots says:

    You don’t think there have been several gay players on EVERY NFL team over the years? Having closeted people in your employ means you’re pro-gay?

    You REALLY want to give them the benefit of the doubt, don’t you?

    Sports team fandom short-circuits logic.

  7. tedhayes says:

    C’mon Ravens, beat the crap out of them.

  8. bandanajack says:

    <-hates tyops

  9. Ninong says:


    I’m positive that Donte Whitner, who has gay family members and is a strong supporter of gay rights, knew what the video was all about. He’s the one who narrates it and he’s the only one who says “LGBT.” That’s the only thing I’m positive about. You could be right about the other three, or at least those two who now say they didn’t know it had anything to do with The Gay.

  10. karmanot says:

    I hope so

  11. Ninong says:

    A lot of Niner fans, straight and gay, are pissed right now. Hopefully all of this will prove a positive for the team and the entire NFL . Maybe the NFL will start a gay-awareness program for players? At the same time, they should probably include a gun-safety training program and an anti-violence against women program. How about including a class on how not to wreck your new very expensive sports car?

    Seriously, I think this will prove to be a positive in the end if the team and the NFL use this as a catalyst for change. Ravens linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo said 50% of NFL players think like Chris Culliver, 25% think like him (Ayanbadejo) and 25% are simply tolerant of Ayanbadejo’s right to express his views. Esera Tualo, who came out after his NFL career was finished, said he has a message for Culliver: “There’s a gay player on your team.”

    There have been several gay players on the 49ers over the years. I met one of them in the 1970’s and over the years a few of them were regulars at certain hangouts in the Castro.

  12. karmanot says:

    Well yes, But SF has always been considerably more than its gay population. It’s a unique and beautiful city of great diversity.

  13. karmanot says:

    Hopefully devoted fans like you can make an impact for the good. But, I can’t ever go back, until proof positive, straightforward, clear apologies are issued and every single man on that ream makes a group “It Gets Better” vid. I am so pissed, and I suspect several thousand GLTBQ fans feel the same.

  14. chet says:

    I wouldn’t go that far, I would just suspend these three players for one game. That game being the super bowl, so if they win they don’t get a ring, they cant say the won a super bowl and they get a nice and loud message that bigotry will not be tolerated on the team or in the league, and if the nfl doesn’t do it the coach shouldn’t dress them for Sunday.

  15. Ninong says:

    I guess I must have missed that particular statement from “The Owner and President.” What did they say exactly?

    The new president and co-owner of the 49ers, since February 2012, is Gideon Yu. Jed York is still CEO and, as far as I know, his mother Denise still retains majority ownership of the team.

    San Francisco safety Donte Whitner, who narrated the Niners’ “It Gets Better” video, is a strong supporter of gay rights. The Niners made that video at the urging of one of their gay fans. It’s quite possible that Whitner was a knowing and willing participant in the project but maybe a couple of the other guys were simply asked to make “an anti-bullying video.”

    Niners CEO Jed York has said he needs to become a leader on the issue of gay rights. After the Super Bowl, he intends to set up a meeting between Chris Culliver and members of the LGBT community in the Bay Area. “I can’t force anybody to think or to act the way that I want them to,” York said. “But what I can do is give them the opportunity to experience other cultures, other communities.”

    Esera Tualo, who came out after his NFL career was finished, said he has a message for Chris Culliver: “There’s a gay player on your team!”

  16. kingstonbears says:

    Sorry, but can’t help notice the “color” of these players. Makes them even bigger @holes.

  17. karmanot says:


  18. karmanot says:

    Good one. I wish they’d move to Gilroy.

  19. karmanot says:


  20. karmanot says:

    It’s not what you say Cicada, it’s the offensive way you say it. Tone down the invective and your points will make more impact.

  21. karmanot says:

    It wasn’t that subtle Ninong. The Owner and President made it very clear that it was all an overblown misinterpretation. Go over the original statement and then the retraction of the ‘It Gets Better,’ and it will be obvious. I have been a lifelong 9’ers fan, but will not tolerate this sickening homophobia. They have lost me for good. Be a fan, that’s your right, but don’t for a second sweep this shit under a denial rug.

  22. Ninong says:

    I wasn’t referring to John’s statement. I was replying to amordecosmos, who said “it was three nitwit players, one of their PR people, and the SF 49’ers press release writer.” He’s clearly referring to the guy who made that idiotic statement about Culliver being misunderstood. That guy has nothing to do with the 49ers. He’s one of Culliver’s entourage.
    Unless amordecosmos meant one of the three nitwits’ PR people and not one of the 49’ers’ PR people, in which case I misunderstood him. In any case, I wasn’t replying to John or referring to anything John wrote.

  23. Don Herman says:

    I’m thinking someone’s been hit on the head a few too many times.

  24. Outspoken1 says:

    Sure glad that there is no bullying of racial minorities in this country. Now THAT would be a different story for these ‘athletes’ [sarcasm]!

  25. tokuiten says:

    If the NFL actually cared about their image, they’d make a public example of these subhumans: they should revoke the 49ers’ franchise, retire the name, ban all 49ers players and coaches from the NFL for life, and award a brand new San Francisco franchise to one of the leaders of any of the LGBT organizations in SF.

  26. rerutled says:

    Now that we know that sports team PR flacks are writing selective scripts for the bigoted members of their teams, and not telling the players that the videos are to stop LGBT kids from killing themselves, one must ask: how many of the other players on all the other sports teams don’t know what they were doing, and wouldn’t have, if they were told that it was to stop LGBT kids from killing themselves?

  27. gotcha

  28. wearing out my F key says:

    “i am not a role model”


  29. It’s definitely, hopefully, a catalyst for change.

  30. Skeptical Cicada says:

    Because the “apologies” are insincere, and they are too arrogant and bigoted ever to acknowledge that they did something wrong to queers. It’s why this GLAAD-promoted ritual of the forced apology is absurd. The proper response to a bigot is discipline and shunning.

  31. Skeptical Cicada says:

    Totally agree. They’re also irresponsible employers, who have done next to nothing to address bigotry in their own locker room.

  32. This is disgusting. I hope they loose the super bowl.

  33. Buford says:

    I think we’re over-thinking this. It’s pretty clear that these guys made what they thought was an anti-bullying video, without understanding that it was intended to primarily help LGBT kids… simple misunderstanding.

    The disgusting part is… now that the misunderstanding has been clarified… they seem to regret their participation in the video now that they realize who it was intended to help.

  34. lilyannerose says:

    This situation has me calling to mind an editorial from the 1980’s when the 49ers were a team to be reckoned with on why San Francisco needed a powerhouse football team. Yep, it was due to real men’s need for a powerful straight male image due to San Francisco being nationally recognized for it’s large gay population. I see things haven’t changed very much.

  35. caphillprof says:

    One would think playing football at the “professional” level would require at least a little intelligence. One would be wrong.

  36. NCMan says:

    I have never understood the apologies that include the phrase “to anybody who was offended”. Why can’t they just acknowledge that what they said was offensive and apologize to EVERYONE. Why must they always couch their statements to make it sound as though it is the failing of those who were offended by the statement and their sensibilities since, you know, many weren’t offended and therefore the statement may not have actually been offensive.

  37. rduke says:

    Pathetic, just this week another gay child died from hanging himself on a playground and these idiots want to deny standing up for him. Beyond pathetic, they are disgusting.
    What is it with so many people in the black community being homophobic bigots and openly disciminating? Do they not realize how that hurts their own fight against bigotry? Seriously, turning around and discriminating against people to lose empathy for you.
    If this trend continues I will be less inclined to stand up for blacks against racial bigotry which is something I have always done thus far in my life.

  38. bandanajack says:

    not the last time i was there, last year…

  39. bandanajack says:

    actually, it is so much more than bigotry.. and that is just the point i was attempting to make. the handlers may or may not be bigots, but they are lying con men, trying to cover an ignorant yokels bigoted comment, for the sake of a buck, and they can’t even do that right. ineptitude is a word too.

  40. Skeptical Cicada says:

    They are obviously done virtually NOTHING to address bigotry among their players, not so much as the simple diversity training that just about every corporate office does these days.

  41. Krusher says:

    Shorter Reynolds (if he is to be believed): I wuz just pandering to the hateful, baby. Who knew it was going to blow up in my face?

  42. Skeptical Cicada says:

    John was referring to the statement issued by the TEAM. It was patronizing clap trap.

  43. Krusher says:

    Honest to Pete, is that team just stuffed with homophobes? You’d think big strong football players wouldn’t be so irrationally fearful and weak.

  44. Skeptical Cicada says:

    OMG, who GIVES A FUCK!!!! That is SOOOOOOOOOOOO not the issue!!!! It doesn’t matter where they play or what they call themselves as long as they continue doing NOTHING to address the pervasive bigotry in their locker room!!!!!

  45. Skeptical Cicada says:

    This isn’t a PR problem; it’s a bigotry problem. The 49ers have obviously done next to nothing to address the bigotry that pervades their locker room. They can shove their “gay nights” and “It Gets Better” videos and “zero tolerance” lies rights up their own asses!

  46. Skeptical Cicada says:

    The word is bigotry

  47. Skeptical Cicada says:

    Where are the shilling fan boys? I fucking told you there was pervasive problem that the 49ers management has done next to nothing to address. They have been blowing smoke up your ass, creating a completely fake image of gay affirmation. Now you’re starting to see why they still have no out player.

  48. ezpz says:

    No, simply rooting for the home team is all.

  49. mwestport says:

    Me typs too fast and hits poast..

  50. hollywoodstein says:

    Wasn’t too long ago many people thought blah people were icky. Some still do. Maybe someone should tell these chowderheads.

  51. Ninong says:

    No they didn’t.

  52. Ninong says:

    They are not going to become the Santa Clara 49ers. Their name will remain San Francisco 49ers just as the NY Giants, who play in New Jersey are not called the New Jersey Giants.

  53. Ninong says:

    That so-called PR person was the personal rep for Chris Culliver. He has no association with the Niners.

  54. Ninong says:

    Sure they’ll have a connection: their name! They’ll still be the San Francisco Forty-Niners even if they play in Santa Clara just as the New York Giants, who play in East Rutherford, New Jersey are still the NY Giants and not the New Jersey Giants.

  55. Ninong says:

    Wow! Just wow! Dan Savage was so thrilled that he had finally gotten an NFL team to do an “It gets better” video after several MLB teams had already done theirs and now this. The 49ers PR guy is going to be really busy.

  56. Don Chandler says:

    Oh man, it’s all making sense, I think there is a chic-fil-a in or near santa clara: Chick-Fil-A53 Headquarters Dr San Jose, CA 95134. Yeah, it does get worse. I guess It’s easy to forget about bullying gblt kids when there is the smell of hate chicken in the air.

  57. I was somewhat ambivalent as to what team to root for this Sunday as I was more interested in my square picks and really didn’t have a dog in this race.

    No more!

  58. FunMe says:

    As strange as this sounds, I think all this homophobia coming out in the open in the NFL is a blessing in disguise. It exposes to the public that there is still a problem and something has to be done to correct this.

    It gets better for ?

    Time to hope that the 49ers lose on Sunday. I’m from California, but I am fine with that. HATE towards any human being is wrong and needs to be eradicated.

  59. karmanot says:

    Agreed….what a sad and contemptible business. I have lost all respect for them.

  60. karmanot says:

    Make that knaves.

  61. karmanot says:

    Leter rip ezpz!

  62. karmanot says:

    I suspect in reality that mecca has been long gone for quite awhile now SF. The Castro is now an upcoming straight young family haven building lives on the gentrified ashes of our old ones.

  63. karmanot says:

    Yep, through the tunnel and OZ is gone, but I doubt any where is worse than Kansas.

  64. karmanot says:

    No longer—-on this end.

  65. karmanot says:

    Sad and disappointing.

  66. karmanot says:

    The owners and management just came out with a statement blaming the ‘gay.’

  67. SkippyFlipjack says:

    of course there are (I live there too) but that’s the same as lots of cities — it’s just not the “Gay Mecca” of SF, which I think was the implication of the post I was replying to

  68. Hue-Man says:

    Time to stop referring to these people and the 49ers organization as “professional”. I’m sure they could have done things to make it even worse but they probably would have been criminal acts. Contrast this with the You Can Play campaign started by Patrick Burke and strongly supported by his father, Brian. Here’s a video where NHL players explain the concept:
    And here’s the link to the videos of sports teams and athletes encouraging LGBT athletes to get involved. http://youcanplayproject.org/videos

    Something has gone horribly wrong if the players featured in an IGB video don’t realize that they have been included in an IGB video!

  69. usagi says:

    Quite correct. Wrong local sports franchise (i thought it was back to back World Series?–shows you how closely I follow it).

  70. Max_1 says:

    You support them?

  71. Max_1 says:

    Tell that to the 49er’s PR staff, management and coaching team.

  72. citizen_spot says:

    I absolutely agree their PR department has been a disaster, but so has their effort to address homophobia in the work place. That said, they haven’t been to the Super Bowl in a long time. I think you might be thinking of the SF Giants baseball team, who won two world series recently, though not back to back.

  73. mirror says:

    Santa Clara ain’t Texas and it ain’t poorly educated racist America.

  74. usagi says:

    When this is all over, it’s going into a brand image management textbook as a case study of how badly you can fuck things up in 24 hours.

  75. usagi says:

    No, they had their redo yesterday. Their PR person needs to be fired, and they need to get someone in the door who’s going to fix this.

    The team is poised to win a second Super Bowl in two years. The City is chomping at the bit for a win. The whole town is braced for one big party (and random vandalism win or lose). And the team has dropped a turd in the punchbowl.

    It is entirely their own, phenomenally bush-league, ham-handed handling of the whole situation that has blown up in their faces two days before what should have been a triumph for them.

  76. nicho says:

    As of next season, they’ll have no connection to San Francisco. They will practice and play in Santa Clara. Their offices are already there.

  77. mirror says:

    If they think moving to Santa Clara is going make this ok, they’ve got some surprises in store.

  78. Jafafa Hots says:

    There are plenty of gay people here in the east bay, and it’s not like the atmosphere here is unwelcoming… unless they’re on the other side of the hills, that is. Might as well be in Kansas then.

  79. bandanajack says:

    knives.. oops

  80. bandanajack says:

    “I certainly offended people and I never intended to offend anybody,” Reynolds said. “Anybody who knows me, that’s not a reflection of who I am. I did something for a certain audience that got out of hand. … It was contradictory to my values and beliefs and contradictory to the team’s values. I completely apologize to anybody who was offended.” he wrote the playbook they all still use. a fucking mazing…

  81. bandanajack says:

    critical mass achieved, an entire NFL franchise lies in rubble, thanks to boneheads at every level, from players, to management to media who call culliver’s comments “controversial”. there is nothing controversial about the mess, it is just plain mendacity. bone headed ignorance, homophobic and hypocritical.

  82. SkippyFlipjack says:

    but then you’re rooting for the Unapologetic Stabber Enablers

  83. Joe Bosse says:

    Hah! I remember that! good catch!

  84. SkippyFlipjack says:

    I think the players don’t actually spend much time in the city proper.. they practice in the south bay, take a highway to the stadium and live in the east bay, so it’s not like they have much contact with SF culture

  85. Don Chandler says:

    I remember awhile back the 49ers had a sensitivity training video made…and it backfired.


    Interestingly enough, they use a lot of the same shallow words back then as they do these days to minimize the effects of their actions.

    Go Ravens.

  86. Joe Bosse says:

    No, this is a bunch of bullies who made an anti- bullying video thinking it would absolve them of their crimes, when somebody pointed out that most of their bullying was against the lgbt community…
    Brooks thought for a second.
    “I know that. I know that,” he said. “Okay, you’re right and I’m wrong. Are you from one of those New York newspapers?”
    Because you know, they breed fags in new york.
    I’m not gay myself, but a lot of people I love are, how does anyone find this anything but obscenely offensive?

  87. mwestport says:

    Not the sharpest knifes in the drawer….


  89. Thom Watson says:

    I have friends who are die-hard life-long fans, and I can’t really imagine how heartbreaking this must be for a die-hard life-long fan. I’m the first to admit my allegiance to the team was recent and casual (I’m not really a football fan at all, to be honest, though I was starting to enjoy watching the games and learning more about the sport because of them) and pretty much just because they’re the hometown team; my husband and so many of our friends are fans; and because they were doing so well. So it’s not as tough for me to walk away from caring about them.

    But it is impossible for me to forgive them for making life a little bit harder today for gay kids who
    thought they might someday be able to play with the NFL, though, or even just try to get through a day without high-paid ignorant athletes casually sending the message that the kids shouldn’t even exist.

  90. Thom Watson says:

    In hindsight, the team’s participation in the “It Gets Better” project that is designed to send a message that it’s never okay to bully or disrespect people for their sexual orientation, and that such bullying will decrease as you move out of high school and life will get better for young gay kids, now seems hypocritical at best, and perhaps nothing more than a shallow grasp for the P.R. attention it brought them. At any rate, they don’t seem to have taken its message to heart once the video was in the can. At a minimum the management needs to get on the phone with GLAAD and schedule some training sessions about homophobia, bullying, and respect.

  91. citizen_spot says:

    I was willing to give the 49er franchise the benefit of doubt yesterday. I was wrong.
    Clearly the environment in the NFL is so toxic to gays that these two bozos who made the video are now denying that they did it to help LGBT kids for fear of being labeled “gay friendly” even. I would also say that the 49ers deserve the PR shite storm because clearly there hasn’t been any guidance from management or the owners on addressing homophobia in the workplace despite their insistence that they have taken steps to address the issue in the past. As a fan I am just so disappointed.

  92. nicho says:

    After the Stupor Bowl, the team is going to become the Santa Clara 49ers — an hour and a half from San Francisco. So maybe they’re trying to appeal to their new fan base.

  93. Jim Olson says:

    Could they fuck this up any more? the *San Francisco* 49ers for cripes sake? Why don’t they at least have sensitivity training for this stuff? Idiots. Tell me again why we support these teams with inflated ticket prices, taxes that pay for stadia, and undeserved public adulation?

  94. ezpz says:

    GO RAVENS!!!

    (sorry – just had to)

  95. Well, the team issued a horrible statement yesterday, in my view, about Chris Culliver. It seemed rather de facto, and intentionally vague. If the team overall is good, they should act it when bad things happen. And they haven’t so far. They’ve reacted like bad people, or at least less-good people would react.

  96. amordecosmos says:

    I thought it was three nitwit players, one of their PR people, and the SF49’ers press release writer so far… and counting.

  97. karmanot says:

    Just lost this 49’ers fan for good.

  98. brufanegra says:

    Can we get a redo? The 49ers, as a whole, has been very supportive of our community. It just seems kinda shitty to take down their effort to be an ally just b/c of two nit wits.

  99. Yeah it’s turning into quite the perfect storm.

  100. tember2 says:

    I’m glad we’re finally confronting one of the last bastions of open homophobia in American society. Bring it on.

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