Harrison Butker Says Women Should Be "Homemakers," but His Mom Is an Accomplished Physicist

Harrison Butker’s commencement speech was racist, homophobic, and sexist. But his mom is ironically an accomplished physician.

Jamie Lerner - Author

May 16 2024, Published 10:01 a.m. ET

Harrison Butker on the field with his wife, son, and parents after AFC Championship Game at Arrowhead Stadium on Jan. 19, 2020
Source: Getty Images

Usually, when someone comes out of the gate with racist and sexist remarks, we harken back to their parents to see how they were raised. But when it comes to Kansas City Chiefs kicker Harrison Butker, the apple actually does fall far from the tree. He went viral for his May 2024 commencement speech at Benedictine College for his racist, sexist, and homophobic remarks.

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But when netizens discovered that the NFL player's mom is an accomplished physician, that fact raised more questions than it answered. How could he believe women should be “homemakers” when his own mother was a career-focused woman? What does she think about his speech? And does he still have a good relationship with her?

Harrison Butker speaks at Chiefs press conference
Source: Getty Images
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Harrison Butker’s mom is an accomplished physicist, despite her son’s beliefs.

Harrison’s speech went viral for several offensive quotes, but one of the most memorable was when he suggested that “one of the most important titles of all” is “homemaker,” which his wife eagerly embraced. He addressed the women graduating from Benedictine College, a Catholic liberal arts college:

“I think it is you, the women, who have had the most diabolical lies told to you. 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. I can tell you that my beautiful wife Isabelle would be the first to say that her life truly started when she started living her vocation as a wife and as a mother.”

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The extremely offensive rhetoric, which suggests the women he’s speaking to shouldn’t have even gone to college in the first place, is antithetical to how he was raised. One activist wrote on Instagram, “Mrs. Butker currently renders her professional expertise to Emory University’s Winship Cancer Institute. Here she serves as a physicist within the Department of Radiation Oncology. Notably hailing from affluent backgrounds due to their successful professions, young Harrison was raised amidst wealth and affluence.”

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Elizabeth Keller Butker is a physicist with degrees from Smith College and Georgia Tech.

When a man has very traditional family beliefs, it usually comes from previous generations. But his mom, Elizabeth Butker (née Keller) was raised in a family of science and is now a medical physicist. According to a 2020 Emory’s Winship Cancer Institute article, Elizabeth specializes in brachytherapy and Gamma Knife medical physics care, following in the footsteps of her father, James Keller, who worked in oncology at Emory for 28 years before he retired in 2011.

Harrison Butker at Chiefs playoff game
Source: Getty Images
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The fact Elizabeth got her Bachelor’s degree in chemistry from Smith College, an all-women liberal arts college with an extremely left-wing student body, is even more telling that she’s likely not responsible for Harrison’s far-right beliefs.

Not only did Harrison seemingly rebel against his family’s values when he re-embraced his Catholic faith but he failed to recognize that the privilege provided to him by two working, highly paid parents afforded him his current successes. He grew up playing basketball, football, and soccer in the expensive and private Westminster Schools. He then became an all-star kicker at Georgia Tech (his mother’s graduate degree alma mater).

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It’s possible that because of his parents’ busy careers — his father was a financial analyst — they weren’t as present in the home. Some Twitter users have suggested that Harrison resents that and wants to encourage mothers to be more present, but forcing that responsibility solely onto women instead of both parents is still sexist, regardless of his upbringing.

And the ultimate "kicker"? In his speech, Harrison fails to recognize that without his mother’s professional accomplishments, he would likely not have had his own.

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