Kansas City Chiefs' Harrison Butker References Taylor Swift in Controversial Commencement Speech

Kansas City Chiefs kicker Harrison Butker received backlash online for his Benedictine College commencement speech, during which he cited Taylor Swift and expressed his views on gender roles.

By Elyse Dupre May 15, 2024 4:30 PMTags
Watch: Kansas City Chiefs’ Harrison Butker Quotes Taylor Swift in Controversial Commencement Speech

Harrison Butker is facing backlash.

The Kansas City Chiefs kicker has come under fire online for the commencement address he delivered at Benedictine College in Atchison, Kan. that saw him discussing a wide range of topics, including abortion, the role of women and LGBTQ+ rights. And he even drew Taylor Swift into the conversation, quoting her song "Bejeweled" while condemning the actions of religious leaders.

"Tragically, so many priests revolve much of their happiness from the adulation they receive from their parishioners. And in searching for this, they let their guard down and become overly familiar," Butker said during the May 11 speech before going on to reference the Grammy winner's lyrics and her relationship with Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce. "This undue familiarity will prove to be problematic every time. Because as my teammate's girlfriend says, 'familiarity breeds contempt.'" 

Turning to the role he believes women should play, he specifically noted to the women in the audience that he wanted to "speak directly to you briefly because I think it is you, the women, who have had the most diabolical lies told to you."

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Taylor Swift Through the Years

"How many of you are sitting here now about to cross this stage and are thinking about all the promotions and titles you are going to get in your career?" the 28-year-old asked. "Some of you may go on to lead successful careers in the world, but I would venture to guess that the majority of you are most excited about your marriage and the children you will bring into this world."

Butker added his wife Isabelle Butker "would be the first to say her life truly started when she started living her vocation as a wife and as a mother" and praised her for embracing "one of the most important titles of all homemaker."

"Isabelle's dream of having a career might not have come true," the NFL player—who shares two kids with Isabelle—later added. "But if you asked her today if she has any regrets on her decision, she would laugh out loud without hesitation and say, 'Heck no.'"

Cooper Neill/Getty Images

During his 20-minute speech at the Catholic college, he also told the men in the audience to "be unapologetic in your masculinity, fighting against the cultural emasculation of men."

The eyebrow-raising speech also saw Butker expressing his opinions on reproductive issues, the coronavirus pandemic and President Joe Biden

"While COVID might've played a large role throughout your formative years, it is not unique," he told the graduating class at one point. "Bad policies and poor leadership have negatively impacted major life issues. Things like abortion, IVF, surrogacy, euthanasia, as well as a growing support for degenerate cultural values in media all stem from the pervasiveness of disorder." 

Targeting the LGBTQ+ community, he also called Pride Month "the deadly sin sort of pride." In addition, he spoke about what he called "dangerous gender ideologies."

After the speech spread online, several social media users criticized Butker.

"Harrison Butker decided to give a GRADUATION speech talking about how women's ‘most important' title in life should be ‘homemaker.', and goes on to rail against the LGBTQ+ community," one commenter tweeted. "Absolutely f--king gross."

Added another, "Harrison Butker gave a misogynistic, homophobic, and transphobic commencement speech and then quoted Taylor Swift? Dude. That's so messed up."

Wrote a third, "I hate this. I love my Chiefs, but in no world do I support Harrison Butker."

E! News has reached out to reps for Swift, Butker and the Chiefs for comment but has yet to hear back.

Keep reading to see all of the celebs who have weighed in on the controversy.

Hoda Kotb and Jenna Bush Hager

"Well, I’m where I am today because I have a husband who leans into his vocation, which is being an equal partner," Jenna—who shares daughters Mila, 11, and Poppy, 8, and son Hal, 4, with husband Henry Hager—said on TODAY. "And I tell him that all the time."

Added co-anchor Hoda, who's mom to daughters Haley, 7, and Hope, 5: "Don’t speak for us. Stop speaking for women out there."

Travis Kelce

"I cherish him as a teammate," the Kansas City Chiefs tight end said on the May 24 episode of the New Heights podcast. "He's treated family and family that I've introduced to him with nothing but respect and kindness. And that's how he treats everyone."

"When it comes down to his views and what he said at Saint Benedict's commencement speech, those are his," he continued. "I can't say I agree with the majority of it or just about any of it outside of just him loving his family and his kids. And I don't think that I should judge him by his views, especially his religious views, of how to go about life, that's just not who I am."

Eddie Vedder

The Pearl Jam frontman had some choice words, calling Butker at "f---kin' p---y" during a May 18 concert in Las Vegas.

"That’s some good men, good women, making up a great band," he said, gesturing to his fellow musicians onstage. "The singer, Jessica [Dobson], and the keyboard player, Patti [King], they must not have believed that [deepening his voice] 'diabolical lie' that women should take pride in taking a back seat to their man."

Vedder—dad to daughters Olivia and Harper with wife Jill McCormick—waited for the applause to trail off, then added that homemaking "is maybe one of the hardest jobs" and one to "definitely take pride in."

But he didn't "understand the logic" of advising anyone, men or women, that they'll benefit from giving up their dreams.

And, Vedder added, "There’s nothing more masculine than a strong man supporting a strong woman and people of quality do not fear equality."

Maren Morris

The "Bones" singer reacted to Harrison's speech with a reference to a social media trend in which women say whether they'd rather encounter a bear or a man while alone in the woods. 

Under a video of the NFL player's speech, Maren wrote on her Instagram Story, "I choose the bear." 

Jason Kelce

“There’s always going to be opinions that everybody shares that you’re going to disagree with,” the former Philadelphia Eagles center said on the May 24 episode of the New Heights podcast. “And make no mistake about it, a lot of the things he said in his commencement speech are not things that I align myself with. But, he’s giving a commencement speech at a Catholic university, and, shocker, it ended up being a very religious and Catholic speech."

“To me," he continued, "I can listen to somebody talk and take great value in it, like when he’s talking about the importance of family and the importance that a great mother can make, while also acknowledge that not everybody has to be a homemaker if that’s not what they want to do in life.”

Maria Shriver

"What point was Harrison Butker really trying to make to women in his graduation speech about their present day life choices?" Maria wrote on X, formerly Twitter, May 16. "Did he really want them, aka us, to believe that our lives truly only begin when we lean into the vocation of wife and mother?"

"Look, everyone has the right to free speech in our country," she continued. "That's the benefit of living in a democracy. But those of us who are women and who have a voice have the right to disagree with Butker."

Kelly Stafford

"Building men up and not tearing them down is important. Building women and not tearing them down is important," wrote the podcast host and mother of four daughters with her husband, L.A. Rams quarterback Matt Stafford, in a May 16 Instagram post.

"Everyone has a choice of what they want his/her life to look like...it's not up to anyone else or society. The more society tells women where they belong, the more imposter syndrome starts to creep in, that they don't belong because that's what society is telling them."

She continued, "I'm happy and I thrive at home with being the homemaker, but that's not every woman's story nor should it have to be. Some women choose not to stay home and some women don't have the luxury to choose. We all might not agree on everything, but I think we all want the same end goal, a better world for our kids.

"I think supporting and encouraging women and men in whatever roles they choose is a great first step towards that goal."

Patricia Heaton

"I don't understand why everybody's knickers in a twist," the Everybody Loves Raymond actor shared in a video. "He gave a commencement speech. The audience applauded twice during the speech and gave him a standing ovation at the end. So clearly they enjoyed what he was saying. The guy is espousing his own opinions and Catholic doctrine."

"So what? It's his opnion, he can have one," she continued. "He's not a monster for stating what he believes."

Whoopi Goldberg

"I like when people say what they need to say—he's at a Catholic College, he's a staunch Catholic," she said during the May 16 episode of The View. "These are his beliefs and he's welcome to him. I don't have to believe them, right? I don't have to accept them. The ladies that were sitting in that audience do not have to accept them."

"I'm okay with him saying whatever he says and the women who are sitting there if they take his advice, good for them, they'll be happy," she added. "If they don't go for them, they will be happy a different way. That's my attitude." 

Patrick Mahomes

"There's certain things that he said that I don't necessarily agree with," the Kansas City Chiefs quarterback explained during a May 22 press conference, "but I understand the person that he is and he is trying to do whatever he can to lead people in the right direction."

"And that might not be the same values as I have, but at the same time, I'm going to judge him by the character that he shows every single day," he said. "That's a great person and we'll continue to move along and try to help build each other up to make ourselves better every single day."

Andy Reid

"Everybody's got their own opinion," the Kansas City Chiefs coach said during a May 22 press conference. "And that's what's so great about this country, you could share those things, and you work through it."

"I didn't talk to him about this, didn’t think we’d need to," he continued. "We’re a microcosm of life here, everybody’s from different areas, different religions, different races. And so we all get along, we all respect each other's opinions, and not necessarily do we go by those, but we respect everybody to have a voice. It's a great thing about America. And we're just like I said a microcosm of that and my wish that everybody could kind of follow that."

“I don’t think he was speaking ill of women," he added. "He has his opinions, and we all respect that."

Bill Maher

While emphasizing "how much this guy is not like me,” the TV host did say OF Harrison's speech during Real Time, "I don’t see what the big crime is, I really don’t.”

He continued, "Like he’s saying some of you may go on to successful careers, but a lot of you are excited about this other way that people, everybody used to be and now can. Can’t that just be a choice too?"

Tavia and Gracie Hunt

The wife and daughter of the Kansas City Chiefs CEO, Clark Hunt, spoke out following the team kicker's controversial statements. 

"I've always encouraged my daughters to be highly educated and chase their dreams," Tavia, who also shares daughter Ava Hunt, 18, and son Knobel Hunt, 20, with Clark, wrote on Instagram, alongside throwback pics of herself with her kids. "I want them to know that they can do whatever they want (that honors God). But I also want them to know that I believe finding a spouse who loves and honors you as or before himself and raising a family together is one of the greatest blessings this world has to offer." 

Gracie, 25, then told Fox News' Fox & Friends, "I've had the most incredible mom who had the ability to stay home and be with us as kids growing up. And I understand that there are many women out there who can't make that decision. But for me and my life, I know it was really formative and in shaping me and my siblings into who we are."

Roger Goodell

"Listen, we have over 3,000 players. We have executives around the league. They have a diversity of opinions and thoughts just like America does," the NFL commissioner said. "I think that's something that we treasure and that's part of, I think, ultimately what makes us as a society better."

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