Baltimore Ravens linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo joined many Marylanders for Marriage Equality by posting a video endorsement last October. Ten months later, rabidly anti-gay state Del. Emmett C. Burns Jr. (D) has decided to retaliate, writing to Ravens owner Steven Disciotti on Maryland House letterhead that Ayanbadejo should be sanctioned for speaking out:
I find it inconceivable that one of your players, Mr. Brendon Ayanbadejo would publicly endorse Same-Sex marriage, specifically as a Raven Football player. Many of my constituents and your football supporters are appalled and aghast that a member of the Ravens Football Team would step into this controversial divide and try to sway public opinion one way or the other.
Many of your fans are opposed to such a view and feel it has no place in a sport that is strictly for pride, entertainment and excitement. I believe Mr. Ayanbadejo should concentrate on football and steer clear of dividing the fan base.
I am requesting that you take the necessary action, as a National Football League Owner, to inhibit such expressions from your employees and that he be ordered to cease and desist such injurious actions. I know of no other NFL player who has done what Mr. Ayanbadejo is doing.
Burns is a vocal opponent of same-sex marriage allied with the campaign to overturn Maryland’s new marriage equality law, which is being challenged at the ballot this year through Question 6. Last year, he was already trying to organize a coalition against the proposed bill. Burns has said that same-sex marriage has “nothing to do with discrimination,” but is merely the promotion of the “gay and lesbian agenda.” He also predicted that President Obama would lose the 2012 election for supporting marriage equality: “I love the president, but I cannot support what he has done.”
Ayanbadejo is hardly the first NFL to take a position on a social issue. In January, six players, including quarterbacks Jay Cutler (Chicago Bears) and Rex Grossman (Washington Redskins), came out against proposed right-to-work legislation in Indiana. Several Green Bay Packers players urged Wisconsin voters to recall Gov. Scott Walker (R) because of his opposition to unions. And of course, Tim Tebow ran anti-choice ads in 2010 in partnership with Focus on the Family. Just last month, the San Francisco 49ers released an “It Gets Better” video, showing their own public support for LGBT teens.
Burns is wrong; sports are not strictly for “pride, entertainment, and excitement.” Sports stars can also be heroes and role models, and Ayanbadejo’s support same-sex families is a perfect example of speaking out on behalf of those treated unfairly in society. Burns just seems to be bitter that his anti-equality campaign doesn’t have an NFL spokesperson. Watch Ayanbadejo’s video:
Ayanbadejo is defending his support for “equality for all” on Twitter.
Minnesota Vikings punter Chris Kluwe has come to Ayanbadejo’s defense in a particularly colorful letter. Here’s an excerpt:
I can assure you that gay people getting married will have zero effect on your life. They won’t come into your house and steal your children. They won’t magically turn you into a lustful cockmonster. They won’t even overthrow the government in an orgy of hedonistic debauchery because all of a sudden they have the same legal rights as the other 90 percent of our population—rights like Social Security benefits, child care tax credits, Family and Medical Leave to take care of loved ones, and COBRA healthcare for spouses and children. You know what having these rights will make gays? Full-fledged American citizens just like everyone else, with the freedom to pursue happiness and all that entails. Do the civil-rights struggles of the past 200 years mean absolutely nothing to you?