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UPDATED: Are The Chicago Bears Supporting NOM’s Anti-Gay Student Conference?

April 03, 2013 2:09 pm ET by Carlos Maza

The Chicago Bears provided autographed memorabilia to support an anti-gay student conference that depicts LGBT people as sinners, pedophiles, and sexual deviants, according to conference organizers.

In an April 3 email to supporters, the National Organization for Marriage’s (NOM) Ruth Institute announced that it would be hosting a “festive gala event” at the end of its annual “It Takes A Family” (ITAF) conference, which is aimed at training college-age students to oppose same-sex marriage:

According to the email, the gala will include a raffle featuring two pieces of autographed memorabilia from the Chicago Bears Organization, who the group thanks for “supporting our message”:

This year, we're planning on sending our graduates off with a bang! And we've got some help! Several donors have stepped up and donated terrific items for us to raffle as prizes in an effort to raise funds for ITAF '13.

[…]

For now, you should know that we have two fabulous raffle items from the Chicago Bears Organization (and a huge THANK YOU to the Bears for supporting our message).

Last year, an Equality Matters undercover investigation revealed that NOM’s ITAF conference was peddling damaging anti-gay misinformation to attendees, including:

  • Same-sex parents are more likely to molest their children than heterosexual parents
  • Children raised by gay parents are more likely to identify as gay
  • Homosexuality is a sin akin to polygamy or incest
  • Same-sex relationships are “dysfunctional” and “inherently unstable”

The conference also featured Robert Gagnon, a theologian who promotes “ex-gay” therapy and recently compared gay-straight alliances to Nazi skinhead groups. Gagnon’s book, which claims that gay people are “worthy of death,” was also on sale at the conference.

Gagnon is already slated to speak at this year’s conference.

One of the raffle items is a signed jersey of former Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher, who has previously said that he would love his son if he turned out to be gay.

It’s unclear if the Chicago Bears Organization is aware of the kind of extreme anti-gay rhetoric that goes on at the ITAF conference, but it’s hard to imagine that NOM’s is the kind of “message” the organization wants to appear to publicly support.

UPDATE: On April 3, the Chicago Tribune reported that the Bears denied having donated the memorabilia to the Ruth Institute:

The Chicago Bears and linebacker Brian Urlacher denied any involvement Wednesday with the Ruth Institute -- an arm of the National Organization For Marriage, which opposes same-sex marriage -- after being tied to the group in an online promotion.

In an advertisement for its June gala at an upcoming conference, the California-based Ruth Institute stated, "For now, you should know that we have two fabulous raffle items from the Chicago Bears Organization (and a huge THANK YOU to the Bears for supporting our message)." Below the statement are images of an autographed  Brian Urlacher jersey and an autographed black-and-white photo of Walter Payton.

"I sign a lot of stuff for charity and I don't always know where it goes," Urlacher told the Tribune. "If I would have known it was for this cause, I wouldn't have done it."

Jarrett Payton, Walter's son, had no comment when reached by Tribune.

In a statement, the Bears said, "The two items featured in The Ruth Institute gala invitation were personal donations to Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse.  Neither was a club donation, nor do they represent the team’s view on any social issues.  Any remarks stating otherwise are false.”

Reached by phone Wednesday afternoon, Morse initially declined comment. But the website later dropped all images and references to the Bears at the team's request, and Morse issued a statement: "The Ruth Institute is not working with the Chicago Bears organization or any of its players past or present to promote our upcoming auction. The memorabilia we are auctioning off was acquired by me personally, not through the team or players. We understand that the Chicago Bears organization takes no position on social issues, and we regret any confusion we may have caused on this point."

NOM’s gala announcement now reads:

Hey, Everybody, just need to correct the record concerning the prizes and auction items we talked about in our last email blast to you!

Here's what the description should have said: "We have two fabulous AUCTION items: a signed Brian Urlacher jersey and a signed photo of Walter Payton (both items were donated by individuals, not the team or the players)" Sorry for any confusion!

Previously:

EXCLUSIVE: Undercover At NOM's Anti-Gay Student Conference

NOM Invites “Gays Are Worthy Of Death” Speaker To Student Summer Conference… Again

“Ex-Gay” Plaintiff Spoke At NOM’s Student Conference