This commencement speech is going viral — and women have something to say about it 

Harrison Butker delivering the commencement speech
Photo courtesy of Benedictine College

If you’ve been on social media this week, you’ve likely seen the video of Kansas City Chiefs’ kicker Harrison Butker delivering a commencement speech at Benedictine College.

In case you’ve missed the viral moment, we’re catching you up on what happened, and why it’s making waves. 

The NFL star took the stage at the private Catholic liberal arts school in Atchison, Kansas and delivered what is being described online as a dehumanizing and divisive speech.

While many of his remarks centred around his religious and political beliefs — which are also ruffling feathers online for being anti-LGBTQ, amongst other issues — it was his message to the female graduates that has women online pushing back in a big way. 

Here’s an overview of what he said:

“For the ladies present today, congratulations on an amazing accomplishment. You should be proud of all that you have achieved to this point in your young lives,” he said. 

“I want to speak directly to you, briefly, because I think it is you, the women, who have had the most diabolical lies told to you.”

He followed that up by saying, “Many of you are sitting here now about to cross the stage and are thinking about all the promotions and titles you’re going to get in your career. 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.”

He took it one step further, thanking his wife, who “would be the first to say that her life truly started when she began living her vocation as a wife and as a mother.”

“I’m on this stage today and able to be the man I am because I have a wife who leans into her vocation,” he said, adding that his success was also due to his wife embracing “one of the most important titles of all: homemaker.”

The online reaction 

The backlash against Butker has been swift — and no, that is not a pun because he quoted Taylor in his speech, referring to her solely as “my teammate’s girlfriend.”

Women across the internet are reacting to, stitching, reposting, and sharing thousands of videos featuring their honest thoughts, criticizing him for looking at women’s roles through a completely outdated lens. 

Betsy Grunch, a neurosurgeon with a significant following –– known as Ladyspinedoc online — shared her take, which has been viewed over three million times. 

“I am moved. I actually had no idea that my life began when I met my husband,” she said sarcastically in the video posted to her TikTok.  

“It did not begin when I graduated Magna Cum Laude from the University of Georgia. It certainly did not begin when I graduated with a 4.0 GPA from medical school,” she continued. “Thank you, Harrison. Thank you for really understanding every part of our being as women.” 

In another post, one woman wrote: 

“What in the Handmaid’s Tale? Imagine studying for years, and then a multi-millionaire football player gets on stage to hold a speech at your graduation just to only address the women in the crowd and say that the greatest thing they will accomplish in their life is being someone’s wife and becoming a mother.” 

The response has prompted a petition on calling on the Chiefs to dismiss Butker for his “discriminatory remarks,” describing the speech as sexist, homophobic, anti-trans, anti-abortion, and racist.

The petition has garnered nearly 180,000 signatures and counting in just four days — well surpassing the original goal of 15,000. 

On the page, thousands of women are sharing their reasons for signing the petition, demonstrating how deeply this rhetoric is being felt. 

While it goes without saying that being a wife, stay-at-home mom, and caregiver is something to be celebrated — and is a path that many women choose for themselves — to discredit the hard work and dedication that went into getting a college degree or suggesting that being a career women is “less than” is an undeniable step backwards. 

While the Chiefs have not yet commented on Butker’s speech, the NFL has released the following statement: 

“Harrison Butker gave a speech in his personal capacity,” Jonathan Beane, the NFL’s Senior Vice-President and Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer, told People Magazine in a written statement. “His views are not those of the NFL as an organization. The NFL is steadfast in our commitment to inclusion, which only makes our league stronger.”

Women online are continuing to put pressure on the team, flooding both Butker and the Chiefs’ social media with calls for action. 

I guess it goes to show, as Taylor Swift said: “No one likes a mad woman. You made her like that.”