Bullying | Dan Savage | Football (American) | News | San Francisco | Sean Chapin | Sports

Activist: The SF 49ers Need to Answer Questions About What Went Down with Their 'It Gets Better' Video


Sean Chapin, the activist behind the Change.org petition that convinced the San Francisco 49ers to be the first NFL team to make an 'It Gets Better' video, says the team needs to address the remarks made by linebacker Ahmad Brooks and nose tackle Isaac Sopoaga last week in the days before the Super Bowl.

Since Brooks and Sopoaga participated in the 49ers 'It Gets Better' video last year, reporters figured they would have an interesting perspective on the Chris Culliver story, but a new controversy arose when Brooks and Sopoaga both denied participating in the video, and then, when they were shown it, said they never knew it had anything to do with gays, and then appeared to want to distance themselves from it.

Their remarks led Dan Savage to pull the video from the 'It Gets Better' site. Savage then tweeted: "We've removed the #49ers #ItGetsBetter video from our website. #homophobia #NFL #horsesh*t"

Watch Chapin's demand that the 49ers address the issue, AFTER THE JUMP...

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  1. 49er fans want Chris Culliver traded ASAP. His ignorant babble distracted the team before the game and his woeful performance was responsible for at least 17 pts. All that said, do you realize that Culliver, Brooks and Sopoanga are from North Carolina, Virginia and American Samoa, respectively. All were likely indoctrinated by anti-gay churches since they were hatched. Would not be surprised that, if even told, they would be too ignorant to realize what the 49ers PSA was all about. That said, I could see the 49ers needing to offer a white lie just to get them to be in it. College football is controlled by the Fellowship for Christian Athletes and coaches evangelize all the time. Many of the pro coaches are just the same. Frankly, instead of PSAs I;d rather have each player asked the questions Culliver was asked and see what babble comes out of their month, yet don't let those answers (usually they'll point to the Bible or some other random anti-gay message point) go unchallenged. That would go a lot further toward educating them than any faux sensitivity training.

    Posted by: William | Feb 4, 2013 10:08:51 PM

  2. The 49er's leadership has tellingly failed here. At this point I am more disappointed in their management than I am in Culliver, who appears young and ignorant to me. Their non action, lack of any effort to put forth an inclusive counter message speaks for itself. Good on you Mr. Chapin for raising the point, but their non response is a response. Good riddance! Santa Clara, you are welcome to the forty-whiners.

    Posted by: babama | Feb 4, 2013 10:09:18 PM

  3. I think Sean is overreacting. They could have put up it up on facebook first instead of youtube because of convenience or a different person being responsible for each account. The players were probably given short scripts for each video, with cue cards, and just read them, taking the shots when they had a few spare minutes during their training sessions. If you do enough, you could easily forget what each is. Also, if you listen to the Chris Culliver video that got him into trouble, and listen to his grammar and vocabulary, you might figure that he doesn't spend a lot of time reading. A player may know the word "gay" but not the acronym LGBT, which tends to be used more in the news or print media than in casual conversations. If one of these guys has done a number of anti-bullying videos, he might simply not have remembered that one was LGBT related. Finally, since they would all know how Chris Culliver was in trouble, they were probably nervous.

    Another factor is that we don't know what they were asked to make - if told it was an "it gets better" anti-bulling video, the players might not have known that it was about LGBT bullying. Language that is clear to a PR guy might not be at all obvious to a football player who doesn't spend his evenings reading, or listening to or viewing news.

    So, I'll assume "innocent until proven guilty" on this one. To start, you should ask how many PSA's a player typically makes. If it is hundreds, maybe not remembering a specific one is not all that surprising. Besides, the organization is not just the football players - they are employees and don't set policies.

    Posted by: Bill | Feb 4, 2013 10:16:19 PM

  4. It seems to me that what Brooks and Sopoanga did was far more egregious than what Culliver said. 'It Gets Better' is one of the most important tools ever thought up to help out our young gay folks during their most vulnerable time in their life. Brooks/Sopoanga's betrayal to that project is worst than if they would have just refused to participate in it. I believe these actions have given them a reservation in a very deep circle of hell.

    Posted by: BECTowel | Feb 4, 2013 10:18:18 PM

  5. It's probably a he said/he said problem. I suspect there was no email or similar documentation involved. I can even believe that they were together and heard each other at the filming. Just like William, I can believe they had no clue what they had agreed to even though it was explained to them.

    Posted by: Diogenes Arktos | Feb 4, 2013 10:20:30 PM

  6. well all said revenge is sweet the 49ers lost and culliver looked bad. way to go ravens.

    Posted by: walter | Feb 4, 2013 10:47:20 PM

  7. Does someone from The Trevor Project not oversee the making of the videos? More than anyone, I blame the person who decided to pass over players who actually wanted to be a part of it in favor of scarier looking, clueless badasses. The whole spirit of the It Gets Better videos is to have heartfelt messages to youth from those who came before them, who were bullied and persevered to see a better day, not about the optics of random, intimidating, brawny adults.

    Posted by: Dastius Krazitauc | Feb 4, 2013 10:49:04 PM

  8. It now looks as though the 49ers organization initially did the video as a promotional vehicle toward gays to attempt to appease their gay fans, especially since SF has a large gay community, instead of a sincere belief. Four players appeared in the video, and now 2 of them state they had no idea what they were promoting? I agree with Sean Chapin, this needs to be addressed. It comes under suspicion as to why the 49ers organization did this video in the first place. We first embraced, now we need to shun at what appears to be a promotional prank by the 49ers organization! They are an embarrassment to the whole "It Gets Better" program.

    Posted by: CB | Feb 4, 2013 11:28:29 PM

  9. @Dastius Krazitauc: Regarding "Does someone from The Trevor Project not oversee the making of the videos?" the answer is almost certainly "no" if overseeing means having a Trevor Project staff member present during the filming: non profit organizations generally have limited economic resources and would not be able to pay a lot of airfare, food and lodging, and car rental costs.

    I'd assume that someone reviews the video before accepting it and they may provide guidelines for the people actually producing the videos.

    Also, don't assume the 49ers got everyone together all at once to film the video, nor that the clips were made in the order shown. The players have a lot of other things to do (training, learning signals and plays, medical evaluations for early injury detection, etc.) so they may not all be there together. A competent film crew can work around that.

    If you see a Hollywood film where, at the end, a key character emerges out of jungle after a month wandering through it after escaping from the bad guys, that scene might be filmed first - if the director wants a real beard, you don't want to put the production on hold for a month while the actor grows one, and it takes minutes to shave it off. You can even trim it down step by step, filming the "lost in the jungle" part backwards.

    Posted by: Bill | Feb 4, 2013 11:30:30 PM

  10. Something everyone seems to be missing: there's no data on how good the memories are of the players on other teams (not just NFL ones) that made "it gets better" videos.

    My hypothesis is that they would all show similar levels of confusion if asked due to similarities in their organizations and in how the videos are made. Unfortunately, this may be difficult to test - with the current flap, it is possible that the PR departments of other teams have noticed and are making sure their players get reminders of what PSAs they've been in, so as to avoid a similar embarrassment. Unfortunately, the reporters did not do that experiment before releasing the news article.

    Posted by: Bill | Feb 4, 2013 11:55:44 PM

  11. The way the It Gets Better Project has developed, into something where so many famous people, including politicians, jumped on the bandwagon to demonstrate their goodness, not wanting to be left out, seemed to make it inevitable that some participants, particularly who were part of group videos, were not so sincere in or even knowledgeable about what they were participating. I don't know if Dan Savage and Terry accept all the videos that come in, but they seem to accept too many videos, often with conflicting messages. It was a great idea but I think the value of it and the power of any particular video has become diluted by the mass participation, some of self-serving.

    Posted by: MichaelJ | Feb 5, 2013 12:08:21 AM

  12. I can just imagine those two players shooting that video quickly during a training day and being told it was an anti bullying PSA. While I appreciate all that you do, I personally feel that the clip did not need to be taken off the site this quick. It seems like an over reaction.

    Posted by: Chuck | Feb 5, 2013 1:21:48 AM

  13. These players are corporate whores who get traded to the highest bidder. They wouldn't know California from Iowa.

    The biggest disappointment is the lack of leadership from the 49ers and the NFL.

    Posted by: jason | Feb 5, 2013 2:10:01 AM

  14. Get off Brooks and Sopoaga's backs. It's obvious that team management just told them that they were doing some random anti-bullying PSA and didn't elaborate that it was geared toward the gay community. Brooks and Sopoaga arbitrarily participated, not knowing who "It Gets Better" targets and were taken back to later find out all after the fact.

    I find it annoying that some people are actually whining because Brooks and Sopoaga didn't have a cozy reaction to finding out the truth. If anything, they were the victims in all this because they were the ones misled and basically exploited.

    Posted by: Sabian | Feb 5, 2013 2:41:14 AM

  15. Why the defense of these players? I don't understand. They are professional players of a well established (professional) sports organization. As many times as the coach has talked about importance of "team"... why give individuals clearance?

    49'ers are a team. Take it or leave it. As such, the 49'ers say they didn't participate in 'It Gets Better' ... correction... not the gay version... So, they didn't. Case closed. They are a team, correct? This is their answer.

    Posted by: BECTowel | Feb 5, 2013 2:47:01 AM

  16. @Sabian: And, if the PR guy told them, "Its for an anti-bullying PSA for LGBT youth" as they helpfully headed over to make it in the middle of a day training, I can see how they might have thought, "cool" and stopped paying attention after the words "anti-bullying". And they might not be up on acronyms. They may also think of "gay rights" as being about marriage equality and various adult-related issues.

    With video editing, each guy being filmed independently, I can see how they might not recognize the final product given each guy's small part in it - the original showed a lot of cutting between players. Regardless, they sounded more confused than anything.

    The one saying that Americans have a right to be gay if they want to could have worded that better, but I doubt the remark was meant to be a hostile one. He probably just meant that if someone is walking down the street holding hands with his boyfriend, it is none of his [the football player's] business. I don't think we should expect highly nuanced statements out of football players.

    Posted by: Bill | Feb 5, 2013 3:11:43 AM

  17. I second BecTowel. It sickens me that people are defending these guys and acting like they do so many PSAs (where?) or are incapable of thought when training or whatever else. They're the victims here? Really? And I won't even respond to the more egregious trolls.

    Posted by: Paul | Feb 5, 2013 3:11:57 AM

  18. Some years ago I worked for a gay couple who had a foundation. They were presented with a proposal to fund an anti-bullying film. They felt that it wasn't their fight.

    In the light of my experience, I can understand that Brooks and Sopoanga may not have made the connection between anti-homophobia and anti-bullying. Indeed, not all bullying is based on actual or perceived sexual orientation, and if the players made the video keeping in mind the young girl who committed suicide because her classmates attacked her on Facebook as unlovable, I can understand that.

    If the glare of publicity has made them realize that "queers get bullied too," then we've had a teachable moment.

    Posted by: Rich | Feb 5, 2013 3:38:52 AM

  19. I've always been weirded out by the hypocrisy of a NFL team - precisely the kind of people of bully others in high school...

    Posted by: G.I. Joe | Feb 5, 2013 4:06:11 AM

  20. I didn't waste 7:44 of my life playing the entire video.
    The players in question are not exactly intellectuals from sophisticated areas -- I can see them privately agreeing to pro-Gay remarks, but refusing to confirm it publicly.
    I thank all 3 of the jerks for bringing to the public's attention how far we still have to go.

    Meanwhile, half the Facebook comments on the Portland TV station's post about the baker who refused the Gay wedding cake are from people who do not know that discrimination by sexual orientation is illegal in Oregon, defending the baker.

    Posted by: Bob | Feb 5, 2013 4:31:56 AM

  21. Such faux outrage here. These two players are just a sideshow to the real issue. Get a grip guys.

    Posted by: WIDE WORLD OF OUTRAGE | Feb 5, 2013 5:20:10 AM

  22. amazing what cowards these big strong straight football players are.

    Posted by: DannyEastVillage | Feb 5, 2013 6:55:36 AM

  23. I'm gonna play the devil's advocate here and agree with Bill 100%. To me it seems very well possible that the players were not fully aware and/or informed on what kind of video they were participating in. And that they are not politicians, writers, journalist or philosophers is obvious to anyone who listens to them talk for more than 5 seconds.

    I think the bigger issue here is that the management/PR team apparently put this PSA on such an admittendly "charged" topic together without making sure that all of the participating team members were fully aware and educated about what kind of PSA this was; not just so that players who disagreed with the IGB-message could decline participating, but also so that those that wished to participate would be able to speak up on the issue if they were later asked about it.

    I think this also shows that SOME IGB videos are simply done for positive publicity.

    Posted by: Lee | Feb 5, 2013 6:57:54 AM

  24. MIchael J, totally agree with u...

    back in the day I made a comment that having Katy Perry telling me it gets better meant absolutely nothing to me... how the hell does she know? when was she gay last time? a kiss in a song is not the same as growing up gay (and I am using her as an example)...

    so I never understood why so many straight celebrities jumped in, and so few actual gay people did... the LGBT faculty and staff at the university I work for did a video, not even sure if it made to anyone's radar, it was never mentioned on campus either (and we had a student hanging himself on campus, though the family denies it was because he's gay, so it never made the national news - though I sent a link to Towleroad)

    Posted by: V-8 | Feb 5, 2013 6:59:02 AM

  25. I've always been weirded out by the hypocrisy of a NFL team - precisely the kind of people of bully others in high school...

    Posted by: G.I. Joe | Feb 5, 2013 4:06:11 AM


    Posted by: oliver | Feb 5, 2013 7:03:44 AM

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