An affiliate of the anti-gay National Organization for Marriage falsely claimed in an email to supporters that the Chicago Bears football team donated items for an auction at its June student conference.
In an email for the Ruth Institute's It Takes A Family “festive gala,” the organization promised raffle prizes, music and ceremony.
The email said, “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).”
The prizes pictured in the email were an autographed photograph of the late Walter Payton, a Bears legend, and a jersey autographed by Brian Urlacher.
But while NOM has the items to give away in the auction, the Bears weren’t due any shout out.
The Chicago Tribune reports that Payton’s brother and Urlacher said any memorabilia being auctioned at the conference was not specifically donated by them for the cause.
“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."
"This is the first I've heard of it," said Eddie Payton, a former NFL kick returner. "Walter treated everybody equal. Only Walter could speak for himself, but it's a touchy subject. It should be a non-subject."
The Bears also issued a statement: “The two items featured in The Ruth Institute gala invitation were personal donations to (President) 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.”
Soon after, 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.”
At past conferences, attendees have heard from a leader in the ex-gay community and received misinformation about LGBT people, especially in regards to parenting.
NOM, at one time, was successfully battling marriage equality efforts in the United States, channeling huge amounts of money into anti-gay initiatives.
But the organization has been on the losing side in recent fights and is seeing diminished support.