One month after Harrison Butker’s commencement speech captivated the country, the college president who invited the Kansas City Chiefs kicker to his campus is finally speaking out.

In a column for USA Today, Stephen D. Minnis, president of Benedictine College in Atchison, Kansas, outlined his frustration with the backlash to Butker’s speech and argued that Americans should all be free “to speak their minds and engage each other without being shouted down, threatened and intimidated.”

“We’ve hosted cardinals and bishops, a U.S. House speaker and a governor, authors and businesspeople, entertainers and athletes. Until this year, no one ever asked us if we shared their views, attacked us for hosting them, or demanded that our commencement speakers be chased from the public square, silenced and fired. This sort of reaction is wrong,” Minnis wrote.

Backlash to Harrison Butker’s speech

As Minnis noted, Butker was heavily criticized for his speech, which included comments about abortion, COVID-19 and stay-at-home moms.

Some felt he had disrespected female graduates, while others argued that he was being willfully misunderstood.

Eventually, some of his colleagues from the Chiefs organization spoke up on his behalf, which helped turn down the temperature of the debate.

Minnis highlighted Patrick Mahomes’ and Andy Reid’s comments in his USA Today column, noting that they’d called attention to the importance of free speech.

“We’re a microcosm of life here (on the team). Everybody is from different areas, different religions, different races. ... We all get along, we all respect each other’s opinions. Not necessarily do we go by those but we respect everybody’s (right) to have a voice. That’s the great thing about America, man,” Reid said about Butker’s speech, as the Deseret News previously reported.

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Benedictine College is not a ‘safe space’

Minnis wrote that hosting Butker helped fulfill Benedictine College’s mission of exposing students to a wide range of ideas.

“From the start, our universities were not created to be ‘safe spaces’ where people cocoon themselves away from ideas that challenge them. They were institutions that guarded their faith fiercely, but where every question was posed and vigorously investigated,” he said.

He added that the backlash to Butker’s commencement speech “reaffirmed” his school’s commitment to protecting and modeling the true meaning of free speech.

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For his part, Butker has said that he’s not afraid to face backlash for talking about his faith-based ideas.

“As to be expected, the more I’ve talked about what I value most — which is my Catholic faith — the more polarizing I’ve become. It’s a decision I’ve consciously made and one I do not regret at all,” Butker said at an event on May 24, about two weeks after he took part in the small Catholic school’s graduation ceremony, according to NBC News.

Like Minnis, Butker described how the initial wave of criticism eventually gave way to more positive responses.

“At the outset, many people expressed a shocking level of hate. But as the days went on, even those who disagreed with my viewpoints shared their support for my freedom of religion,” he said.

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