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  • Brendon Ayanbadejo

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  • Mark Humphrey / Associated Press

    Chris Culliver, a 49ers defensive back, apologized for anti-gay remarks. Earlier, the team said it rejected Culliver's comments.

49ers' defenders bashes the idea of a gay teammate, then backtracks

Published: Thursday, Jan. 31, 2013 - 12:00 am | Page 1C
Last Modified: Monday, Aug. 26, 2013 - 1:46 pm

NEW ORLEANS – One day after saying gays wouldn't be welcome in the 49ers' locker room, defensive back Chris Culliver apologized for the remarks he made during media day at the Superdome.

Shock jock Artie Lange interviewed Culliver, the 49ers' nickel cornerback, during the Super Bowl's annual circus-like media session and asked him about gay players. Lange played the brief clip on his radio show Tuesday night.

"I don't do the gay guys, man," said Culliver, 24. "I don't do that. No, we don't got no gay people on the team, they gotta get up out of here if they do. Can't be with that sweet stuff. Nah … can't be … in the locker room, man. Nah."

Culliver, who played 73 percent of the team's defensive snaps this season, said any player who is gay should keep it a secret. "Yeah, come out 10 years later after that," he said.

Wednesday evening, Culliver apologized in a statement.

"The derogatory comments I made (Tuesday) were a reflection of thoughts in my head, but they are not how I feel," the statement read. "It has taken me seeing them in print to realize that they are hurtful and ugly. Those discriminating feelings are truly not in my heart. Further, I apologize to those who I have hurt and offended, and I pledge to learn and grow from this experience."

A 49ers spokesperson said Culliver planned to formally apologize at a media session today.

The 49ers reacted earlier Wednesday with a strongly worded statement: "The San Francisco 49ers reject the comments that were made (Tuesday), and have addressed the matter with Chris," the statement read. "There is no place for discrimination within our organization at any level. We have and always will proudly support the (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) community."

Homosexuality in the locker room was topical this week after former 49ers first-round draft pick Kwame Harris, an offensive tackle, appeared in court in San Mateo County on charges he beat up an ex-boyfriend.

Baltimore Ravens linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo has been a national story in recent months because of his vocal support for same-sex unions, including his backing of a successful referendum for marriage equality in Maryland.

Ayanbadejo has said he'd use the Super Bowl as a platform to promote gay marriage. However, he steered clear of the topic Tuesday.

"I don't want to keep touching on that subject, but obviously we're here at the Super Bowl, and it's the pinnacle of sports here in the United States, so I just really want to focus," he said. "A lot of media stuff has come up with 'Ayanbadejo this and Ayanbadejo that,' but I think the most important thing is that I'm here with my team. My focus is on this football game and this is the most important game I've ever played in my life."

The 49ers, who represent the most tolerant big city in the United States, often have found themselves at the center of the discussion over gays in the locker room.

Earlier this year, they became the first NFL team to record a public-service announcement denouncing anti-gay bullying: "It Gets Better."

Safety Donte Whitner, linebacker Ahmad Brooks and defensive linemen Ricky Jean-Francois and Isaac Sopoaga appeared in the message.

Whitner was asked about Ayanbadejo's stance Wednesday.

"I think he's an extremely strong guy to be able to do it," Whitner said. "You know there's going to be a lot of backlash. You know there's going to be a lot of people questioning why he's doing it. But I think it's great. I think it's great for people to be who they want to be."

Culliver isn't the first 49er to say gays aren't welcome in the team's locker room.

In 2002, running back Garrison Hearst made inflammatory remarks toward homosexuals that grabbed national headlines after former NFL defensive tackle Esera Tuaolo came out of the closet.

Hearst later apologized.

Longtime 49ers trainer Lindsy McLean publicly revealed he is gay upon his retirement in 2004. McLean's sexual orientation was an open secret at the 49ers facility. He has said he mostly was treated with respect during more than two decades as the team's top trainer, but he also has spoken about disturbing incidents of taunting and harassment by players.

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