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49ers Back Doesn't Want `Faggots' on Team

(This story was published in 2002).

San Francisco 49ers running back Garrison Hearst plays in the gay mecca of the U.S., but he has no trouble throwing the “F” word around when it comes to having an openly gay teammate.

“Aww, hell no! I don't want any faggots on my team. I know this might not be what people want to hear, but that's a punk. I don't want any faggots in this locker room,” Hearst said in an Oct. 27 story by Milo F. Bryant in the Fresno Bee. He was asked his opinion as news broke that former defensive lineman Esera Tuaolo came out as gay.

On Thursday, Hearst did not deny he made the remarks when pressed by reporters, nor did he apologize. But he did admit his comments were ``a little insensitive.''

``I don't know, man. If I hurt somebody's feelings, I hate that I did it, because I don't want to be rude. But the comment was made,'' Hearst told the Oakland Tribune. Asked if his comment provided an accurate depiction of his feelings on the issue, he added, ``I don't know. I don't know.''

Though the comments were made three weeks ago, they were largely ignored until I contacted a source in the Bay Area after returning from Gay Games in Sydney this week. Having just learned of the comments, I wanted to know what the fallout had been, but then learned they had gone unnoticed. The local writers covering the team then saw the quotes and approached Hearst and 49ers officials for reaction.

Forty-Niners management, while regretting what Hearst said, gave no indication the 10-year running back would be reprimanded in any way. The 49ers ( 7-3) play Philadelphia on Monday night.

``I think it's unfortunate,'' 49ers general manager Terry Donahue told the Tribune. ``I don't think that is reflective of the attitude of the organization. Frankly, we're way too busy trying to block and tackle and hit passes to be involved in a social issue. ... I think it was unfortunate that those comments were made, and insensitive. I think we're just going to move on.''

San Francisco coach Steve Mariucci told the paper, ``I just learned of it. Really, I don't have anything to say about it. I knew Esera when he was in Green Bay. ... He was a heck of a guy and a heck of a player. But I don't want to get into what Garrison said.''

Hearst’s comments are the most virulent of those publicly uttered by players in the wake of Tuaolo’s declaration. But they almost certainly reflect an attitude shared by others, though not expressed so harshly. In a poll of 27 current Minnesota Vikings, for example, the St. Paul Pioneer Press this week found “nearly half said they would be uncomfortable with an openly gay teammate, and almost 60 percent said the NFL wasn't ready for a player to come out.”

In September, New York Giants rookie tight end Jeremy Shockey came in for criticism when he told Howard Stern that he hoped there were no gay players in the NFL. He later said, “I guess I do regret saying it.”

This week, the Human Rights Campaign, a well-established gay advocacy group, urged the NFL to address homophobia in the league. The group mentioned Hearst’s comments in its letter to Commissioner Paul Tagliabue. "Tuaolo's experience and the lack of other 'out' individuals strongly suggest that most players are not aware of the NFL's current rules governing harassment and discrimination--and such rules are not being effectively enforced," read part of the HRC letter.

The league has a non-discrimination policy that includes sexual orientation and also has an anti-harassment policy that forbids "epithets, slurs or negative stereotypes.” The league, however, took no action against Shockey and it is unclear what, if anything, it will say about Hearst.