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After Harrison Butker post, Kansas City mayor says female city staff are being threatened online

Kansas City Chiefs kicker Harrison Butker speaks to the media during NFL football Super Bowl 58 opening night Monday, Feb. 5, 2024, in Las Vegas.
Charlie Riedel
Associated Press
Kansas City Chiefs kicker Harrison Butker speaks to the media during NFL football Super Bowl 58 opening night Monday, Feb. 5, 2024, in Las Vegas.

Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas says that “inflammatory rhetoric” from Missouri Attorney General Andrew Bailey has ignited a wave of violent and racist online harassment against female employees at City Hall.

It’s the latest fallout from a controversial commencement address Kansas City Chiefs kicker Harrison Butker delivered last weekend to graduates of Benedictine College, a private Catholic college in Atchison, Kansas.

Butker’s speech was met with significant public criticism outside of the school. In it, he criticized abortion and COVID policies, told male graduates to be “unapologetic in their masculinity” and urged the female graduates in the audience to embrace the title of “homemaker.”

On Wednesday, Kansas City posted on its official X account: “Just a reminder that Harrison Butker lives in the City of Lee’s Summit.” The city quickly took the post down and apologized, saying that it was “shared in error.”

“It was not an appropriate post for the City of Kansas City,” Lucas posted from his personal account. “It should not have ever been up.”

Bailey, a Republican who is currently campaigning for this year's attorney general race, subsequently threatened to take action against Kansas City for “doxxing” Butker.

“I will enforce the Missouri Human Rights Act to ensure Missourians are not targeted for their free exercise of religion,” Bailey said.

Doxxing is the term for intentionally revealing a person’s private information — such as phone numbers, home address, ID numbers or other sensitive data — online without their consent, usually with the intent to provoke intimidation or harassment.

Kansas City’s social media account did not post Butker’s address, beyond saying he lives in Lee’s Summit — a city of 100,000 people.

In a letter to Lucas on Thursday, Bailey accused Kansas City of retaliating against Butker for his religious beliefs, and demanded that Lucas turn over all documents, records and communications relating to Kansas City’s post on X about Butker.

“This was irresponsible at best, and is potentially a violation of Missouri law,” Bailey wrote.

Bailey made several media appearances surrounding the issue.

Lucas said that Bailey’s actions have led to harassment of their own.

“The growing online rhetoric on this issue, for which you are fanning the flames, has made City employees targets for online hate mobs and put their personal safety at risk, including leading an employee to leave her home for her safety,” Lucas said in Friday’s letter.

Lucas said that Black and female employees of the city, “who had no involvement in the objectionable tweet,” are being specifically targeted with racist and sexist slurs and death threats. His letter cites one post that shows an employee’s street address next to an image of a Black person hanging from a noose.

“If you object to posting the mere city in which a public figure lives, then you should condemn even more strongly the posting of a municipal employee’s name, photo, and home address alongside racist and genuine threats of violence,” Lucas said.

In his letter to Bailey, Lucas said that the city has launched a Human Resources disciplinary process.

On Thursday, Kansas City Council member Nathan Willett, who represents the Northland, introduced a resolution directing the city manager to give a presentation on social media policies and practices. That ordinance is waiting to go through normal council processes.

Lucas sent a separate letter to city employees addressing the targeted online harassment. He said his administration contacted the Kansas City Police Department and the Federal Bureau of Investigation to report the threats made to employees and ensure the safety of staffers.

Lucas also said he directed city administration to “ensure appropriate actions be taken to prevent such incidents from reoccurring in the future.”

“Our city is committed to fostering an inclusive and respectful environment for all employees, regardless of their race or background,” Lucas said in the letter to employees. “No individual should have to endure the kind of vitriol that was directed at our colleagues. It is essential that we stand together in solidarity against racism and bigotry in any form.”

Celisa Calacal is a government and politics reporter at KCUR in Kansas City.