Two months after Phil Robertson's controversial comments on homosexuality, his company is sponsoring a bowl.
The news trickled in late last week: So long AdvoCare V100 Independence Bowl, hello Duck Commander Independence Bowl. Those Duck Dynasty guys (one of whom, Phil Robertson, has roots in college football) went and sponsored a bowl game, and the name (and six-year deal) became official on Wednesday afternoon.
After taking some time to digest the news, it didn't sit right with me. There's something odd about a bowl game being directly associated with a company founded by a man who has made a variety of controversial remarks in recent months.
In Drew Magary's profile of Phil Robertson for GQ, Robertson said:
“It seems like, to me, a vagina—as a man—would be more desirable than a man’s anus. That’s just me. I’m just thinking: There’s more there! She’s got more to offer. I mean, come on, dudes! You know what I’m saying? But hey, sin: It’s not logical, my man. It’s just not logical.”
He also said this in the same piece:
“Start with homosexual behavior and just morph out from there. Bestiality, sleeping around with this woman and that woman and that woman and those men,” he says. Then he paraphrases Corinthians: “Don’t be deceived. Neither the adulterers, the idolaters, the male prostitutes, the homosexual offenders, the greedy, the drunkards, the slanderers, the swindlers—they won’t inherit the kingdom of God. Don’t deceive yourself. It’s not right.”
As well as this:
“I never, with my eyes, saw the mistreatment of any black person. Not once. Where we lived was all farmers. The blacks worked for the farmers. I hoed cotton with them. I’m with the blacks, because we’re white trash. We’re going across the field.... They’re singing and happy. I never heard one of them, one black person, say, ‘I tell you what: These doggone white people’—not a word!... Pre-entitlement, pre-welfare, you say: Were they happy? They were godly; they were happy; no one was singing the blues.”
And in a video from 2009 which resurfaced in late December, Robertson gave advice on marriage, saying:
"You wait 'til they get to be 20 years old. The only picking that's going to take place is your pocket. You've got to marry these girls when they're about 15 or 16; they'll pick your ducks. You need to check with mom and dad about that of course."
The nature of sponsoring bowl games is always strange, and some pairings work better than others. We've taken to Belk more than we ever took to Meineke Car Care. Tostitos and Fiesta just go together -- and not solely because there are bags of chips sitting on every seat at the game. Lest we forget the Astros played at Enron Field for awhile.
In theory, the idea of a Louisiana company-made good -- the fact that consumers can buy Duck Dynasty-branded products at a Walgreen's in Chicago speaks to A&E's ability to market the show -- sponsoring a bowl game in Louisiana makes for the type of pairing that actually works. Shreveport is an ideal place for a game based on camouflage and duck calls. Look, the mayor is wearing camo! Isn't that cute everyone gets bird calls with a logo on them?
Last year, this partnership would have been ripe for quirky jokes and gifts. After re-reading Robertson's remarks from GQ in the wake of the announcement, I'm having a really hard time approaching it that way now. This is a man, who, in addition to his issues with homosexuality, advocates marrying teenage girls and seems to idealize the Jim Crow-era South.
As of Wednesday, the company Phil Robertson helped grow into a multi-million dollar entity has its stamp on college football. That aside, he still said what he said and believes what he believes -- that's his right, this is America after all. But dressing it up in camouflage won't make that any easier for me to ignore either.