The Chicago Bears appear to have been blindsided by the National Organization for Marriage (NOM) and its Ruth Institute, including two of the team's all-time most popular players.
The NOM claimed earlier this week that the Bears made a memorabilia donationautographed items of former Bears Brian Urlacher and Walter Payton, a Hall of Famerto be raffled off at a June gala, and even added that the team is "supporting our message," which is vehemently opposed to same-sex marriage.
However, when asked, the Bears deny any relationship with NOM. On Twitter, the team posted: "Items were personal donations; not from club. They don't represent team view on any social issues. Any other remarks [are] false."
The autographed items were, instead, personal donations to Jennifer Roback Morse, NOM presidentand the group has since backed off on its claim that the Bears are backers of the anti-gay group.
"The Ruth Institute is not working with the Chicago Bears organization or any of its players past or present to promote our upcoming auction," Morse said in a statement. "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."
Urlacher, a certain Hall of Famer who played for the Bears from 2000-2012, told the Chicago Tribune: "I sign a lot of stuff for charity and I don't always know where it goes. 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 the Chicago Tribune. But Eddie Payton, Walter's brother who also played in the NFL, told the Tribune that he did not know of any Payton memorabilia was being used to support an anti-gay marriage group. "This is the first I've heard of it," Eddie told the Tribune. "Walter treated everybody equal. Only Walter could speak for himself, but it's a touchy subject. It should be a non-subject."
There are numerous Urlacher-signed Bears' jerseys being sold online, such as on eBay, most ranging in price from $150-300. An identical signed photo of Payton to the one promoted by NOM sold last month on eBay for about $100. However, at charity auctions, sports memorabilia often sells for considerably more than its true market value.