Baltimore Ravens linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo was an outspoken advocate for marriage equality during the campaign in Maryland last year, but his support has not waned since that victorious conclusion. Now that the Ravens are bound for the Super Bowl, he wants to use that visibility to promote equality on a bigger scale:
He tapped out an email to Brian Ellner, a leading marriage-equality advocate with whom he had worked before, and Michael Skolnik, the political director for Russell Simmons, a hip-hop mogul who has become involved in many issues, including same-sex marriage.
Ayanbadejo wrote: “Is there anything I can do for marriage equality or anti- bullying over the next couple of weeks to harness this Super Bowl media?” The time stamp on the email was 3:40:35 A.M.
Ayanbadejo joked that this was his “Jerry Maguire email,” and told Frank Bruni at the New York Times that he’s really excited about the opportunity to do more:
“It’s one of those times when you’re really passionate and in your zone,” Ayanbadejo told me, referring to Maguire’s movie moment and to his own real-life one, in the wee hours of Monday morning. “And I got to thinking about all kinds of things, and I thought: how can we get our message out there?”
He may have his sights on winning the Super Bowl, but he’s looking past that too:
“That’s my ultimate goal after the Super Bowl,” Ayanbadejo told me. “To go on Ellen’s show, to be dancing with her, to bust a move with her.”
In addition to Ellner and Skolnik, he has reached out to Hudson Taylor, founder of Athlete Ally, to explore opportunities to do more to combat bullying and homophobia in athletics.
Ayanbadejo is the model of a straight ally: a football star who just found out he was going to the Super Bowl and reacted by asking what he could do to support the LGBT community. Plenty of individuals will step up when asked, but it’s the ones who take their own initiative who make the biggest difference.