NEW ORLEANS San Francisco cornerback Chris Culliver apologized Thursday for anti-gay comments he made during a Media Day interview Tuesday with comedian Artie Lange.
Culliver, who went to high school outside of Raleigh and played at South Carolina, issued a statement Wednesday expressing regret for his remarks. Thursday morning, he apologized repeatedly while facing a media scrum larger than those surrounding any other player at the 49ers’ team hotel.
“It’s not what I felt. That’s why I’m addressing the situation today,” Culliver said. “I support gay people, gay communities and different anything. I’m sorry that I made that comment, that I hurt anyone or made any comment that might affect them, the organization, the NFL, anything like that.”
Culliver said he has relatives who are gay, and that he “cleared it up” with them, as well.
“I talked to them about it. Some people contacted me. I just talked to them about it and moved on,” Culliver said. “They understand where I was coming from. They heard everything. That’s why they called me directly. And they heard from me.”
Culliver said he was “never in a serious matter” when he told Lange – in response to a question – that the 49ers did not have any gay players, and he wouldn’t welcome a gay teammate in the locker room.
“I don’t do the gay guys, man,” Culliver told Lange. “Ain’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.”
Lange, a so-called shock jock who formerly was part of “The Howard Stern Show,” set the tone for the one-minute taped interview when he asked Culliver how many white women he would have sex with in New Orleans this week.
“His (second) question was very disrespectful. I felt a little offended. But there were just so many people around. And you can’t get away from everybody,” Culliver said. “Guys like that shouldn’t harass players like us. But hopefully something will happen.”
Niners coach Jim Harbaugh said he spoke with Culliver about the incident, but would not divulge details of their conversation. Harbaugh said he does not believe the remarks reflected Culliver’s true feelings.
“There wasn’t malice in his heart. He’s not that kind of person. He’s not an ugly person. He’s not a discriminating person,” Harbaugh said. “I think it took this incident to hear those words being said by him and to see them written down on paper, for him to realize that they were hurtful and ugly. I know that he takes that to heart and I really think this is something he’ll learn and grow from.”
Culliver called his remarks “ugly comments” that resonated loudly in San Francisco and the Bay Area, which has a large gay and lesbian population.
“Hopefully, I can learn and grow from this experience and this situation,” Culliver said. “I love San Francisco.”
Culliver, 24, a third-round pick in 2011, started six games this season. He had an interception in San Francisco’s victory against Atlanta in the NFC Championship Game.
Ravens linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo has used his Super Bowl platform this week to advocate for gay rights. Ayanbadejo told reporters he thinks Culliver will turn the controversy into a positive.
But Ayanbadejo also said he believes Culliver’s comments reflect the stance of 50 percent of the league’s players.
San Francisco wideout Randy Moss is hopeful NFL players will be more accepting of the gay culture and the possibility of a gay teammate, saying it’s 2013 – “not the 1980s or ’90s.”
“I think in our game of football, a lot of people say they couldn’t tolerate. But it’s here,” Moss added. “I don’t ever separate anyone from race or anything like that. But there are gays in sports and I just think we need to let it go and just move on.”
Moss said he’s wondered whether certain teammates were gay, “but it’s not my position or your position to call them out or to make them look bad or make fun of them.”
Culliver said he had not talked to teammates about the incident because he doesn’t want to take away from the team’s focus.
“I don’t want that to be a distraction on the team and for an incident like this to cause us to unfortunately not win the Super Bowl,” Culliver said. “That’s what these guys are here for. That’s what I’m here for.”
Asked if he thinks the remarks will follow him the rest of his career, Culliver said, “I don’t know. Hopefully not.”