Whoopi Goldberg defends NFL star’s right to free speech after controversial address

Whoopi Goldberg has defended NFL player Harrison Butker’s controversial commencement speech, claiming that people have a “right to say how they feel”.

American football star Butker, who is a placekicker for the Kansas City Chiefs, sparked debate earlier this week with his address to the graduating students at Benedictine College.

During his speech, Butker, 28, railed against a series of topics including President Joe Biden, the LGBTQ+ community, and euthanasia. He also told women in the audience that their “most important title” should be that of a “homemaker”.

The NFL has distanced itself from the views expressed by the sportsman, while others have called for the Kansas City Chiefs to drop him from the team.

On Thursday’s edition (16 May) of The View, long-time panellist Goldberg, 68, defended Butker’s right to free speech, whether or not she agreed with his points.

“I like when people say what they need to say,” the actor and presenter said.

“He’s at a Catholic college, he’s a staunch Catholic. These are his beliefs and he’s welcome to them. I don’t have to believe them, I don’t have to accept them, the ladies that were sitting in that audience don’t have to accept them.”

Whoopi Goldberg and Harrison Butker (The View / Getty)
Whoopi Goldberg and Harrison Butker (The View / Getty)

The Oscar-winning star of Ghost went on to compare the controversy to former American football star Colin Kaepernick’s campaign of kneeling during the national anthem in protest of police brutality in the US.

Goldberg continued: “The same way we want respect when Colin Kaepernick takes a knee, we want to give respect to people whose ideas are different from ours because the man who says he wants to be president, You-Know-Who, he says the way to act is to take away people’s right to say how they feel.

“We don’t want to be that. We don’t want to be those people.”

Harrison Butker (Copyright 2024 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)
Harrison Butker (Copyright 2024 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

While fellow The View panellist Sara Haines disagreed with the content of Butker’s speech, she noted that she didn’t believe that he should lose his job as a result of the backlash.

Haines, however, retorted that Butker’s speech could not be treated in the same way as Kaepernick’s kneeling.

She said: “Colin Kaepernick was standing up for the rights of many and saying, in a social justice moment, this is a reminder that we’re not there yet,” before noting that Butker’s views did not represent those of all Catholics.

Butker was also criticised by The View’s Sunny Hostin for his words regarding the LGBTQ+ community, after seemingly referring to Pride month in June as an example of the “deadly sins”.

As well as telling men to “be unapologetic in your masculinity” and “fight against the cultural emasculation of men”, Butker also quoted Taylor Swift, who is in a highly publicised relationship with his teammate Travis Kelce.

“As my teammate’s girlfriend says, ‘Familiarity breeds contempt,’” Butker told the crowd, despite the phrase being commonly used by many.

In response, the NFL noted that Butker’s speech was given “in his personal capacity” and does not reflect the views of the organisation.