Kansas City Chiefs kicker Harrison Butker nearly broke down in tears Saturday as he discussed his wife.

He praised her for putting her work as a wife and mother ahead of her career aspirations, and credited her with paving the way toward his own success.

“It cannot be overstated that all of my success is made possible because a girl I met in band class back in middle school would convert to the faith, become my wife and embrace one of the most important titles of all — homemaker,” Butker said to the 2024 graduates of Benedictine College, a small Catholic school in Atchison, Kansas.

Butker urged young women in the audience to consider Isabelle Butker’s experience as they leave college for the real world. He said they’d likely been told “diabolical lies” about what actually matters in life.

“Isabelle’s dream of having a career might not have come true, 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,’” he said.

Butker then shifted his attention to young men, observing that they’re often told lies, too. It’s wrong to believe kids don’t need fathers, he said, or that communities don’t need men.

“Part of what plagues our society is this lie that has been told to you that men are not necessary in the home or in our communities. As men, we set the tone of the culture. When that is absent, disorder, disfunction and chaos set in,” he said.

Harrison Butker controversy

Butker’s remarks on motherhood, fatherhood and other aspects of family life fit the context of a theologically conservative school.

But as the video of Butker’s commencement speech made the rounds on social media, it was met with intense pushback.

Some viewers criticized him for telling young women to focus on motherhood and for telling young men that they’re destined to lead.

“I’m sorry to every graduate who had to sit there and listen to that,” said Amanda Goetz, a marketer and writer with more than 100,000 followers on X.

The Chiefs kicker, who has won three Super Bowls with the team, also faced pushback for his comments on politics, the COVID-19 pandemic and President Joe Biden.

At various points in his speech, he criticized Catholic leaders for temporarily closing churches during the pandemic, Biden for claiming a Catholic can support abortion rights and Congress for its work on the Antisemitism Awareness Act.

“Congress just passed a bill where stating something as basic as the biblical teaching of who killed Jesus could land you in jail,” Butker said, referencing the concern that the act’s definition of antisemitism is too broad, which has been raised by some Christian lawmakers, as the Deseret News previously reported.

But Butker also earned praise for his remarks from faith leaders and others — and he earned a standing ovation from Benedictine College graduates on Saturday.

“Not a word Harrison Butker says here should be remotely controversial. He’s 100% correct,” said T.J. Moe, a former NFL player with more than 40,000 followers on X.

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Harrison Butker’s religion

During his speech, Butker did not seem concerned about ruffling feathers with his remarks. He said that he’s come to embrace his unusual place in the world.

“It is safe to say that over the past few years I’ve gained quite the reputation for speaking my mind. I never envisioned myself nor wanted to have this sort of a platform, but God has given it to me so I have no other choice but to embrace it,” he said.

Butker called on graduates to be similarly bold in proclaiming their beliefs.

“We must always speak and act in charity but never mistake charity for cowardice,” he said.

Butker has been in the NFL since 2017 and is one of the league’s most outspoken Catholics, as the Deseret News has previously reported.