Nothing helps us learn more than the mistakes we make in life.
That, I’m hopeful, will be true in the case of Maurice Burkley, a walk-on football player at the Univ. of Louisville who took to Snapchat today and shared an unfortunately ignorant, homophobic thought of the day:
Not good. Not good at all. Particularly for a possible gay teammate or friend who might be in the closet, the message is most definitely not good.
Compounding matters for him, the Louisville football team is coached by Bobby Petrino, whose son, Bobby Petrino Jr., came out publicly as gay in 2015.
Within a couple hours of posting the snap, Burkley realized just how bad his comment was and shared what comes across to me as a heartfelt apology:
I want to apologize to the LGBT community for my choice of words in an earlier post today on social media. I did not think before I spoke and I would like to apologize for my comments. I feel everyone has the right to make their own choices and decisions and I respect that fully. To the people that I offended I am truly sorry and I hope I can be forgiven. I will learn from this experience and become a better person for it. Thank you for reading this and have a blessed day.
I take him at his word. Like I said at the top, we learn from our mistakes. What a great opportunity now for Burkley to learn and grow, and to help others around him do the same. Next time he sees two men kissing, he’ll think back to this moment and see it through a different lens.
Burkley was a walk-on to the football team last year. He previously played running back for Matea Valley High School in Illinois, racking up over 1,000 yards and six touchdowns his season season, according to Scout.com.
While I’m sure some people’s immediate reaction will be to “cut that homophobe,” I can’t think of a more inappropriate reaction. I hope he plays for the Cardinals for the next three years. I hope he eventually gets a scholarship. I hope he becomes a leader on the team and one day looks back on this and educates someone else on the importance of inclusion and acceptance.
That is a win-win-win.
Burkley’s comment, of course, underscores the importance for more gay men and women to kiss their loved ones in public. His observation was not about general public displays of affection, but rather only those between people of the same sex. The more we show affection publicly with tasteful kisses and holding hands, the faster young men like Burkley understand it’s not that big of a deal.
We have to keep being more visible to open the eyes of people like Burkley.
Until then, hopefully the entire Louisville athletic department takes this as an opportunity to talk more about LGBT people in and outside of sports.