When football, same-sex marriage and politics collide
Baltimore Ravens linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo is becoming well-known off the field for his support of same-sex marriage.
September 8th, 2012
02:48 PM ET

When football, same-sex marriage and politics collide

In his 10th NFL season, Baltimore Ravens linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo is catching more attention for his political views than his special teams talents. And after a Maryland politician slammed his views on same-sex marriage, other NFL players are stepping up to defend Ayanbadejo's freedom of speech.

Ayanbadejo is a vocal supporter of same-sex marriage. He filmed video shorts for Equality Maryland and even wrote about same-sex marriage for the Huffington Post in 2009.

State lawmaker and minister Emmett C. Burns Jr. is a self-described Ravens fan, but in a letter sent to team owner Steve Bisciotti, Burns said it was "inconceivable" that Ayanbadejo was publicly endorsing same-sex marriage.

In the letter, written on August 29 and obtained by Yahoo! Sports, Burns wrote, "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 am requesting that you take the necessary action, as a National Football Franchise Owner, to inhibit such expressions from your employee 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."

In March, Democratic Gov. Martin O'Malley legalized same-sex marriage in Maryland, but the law doesn't take effect until 2013.

Amid the political convention-themed tweets filling his profile, Ayanbadejo responded on his Twitter page with this: "Football is just my job it's not who I am. I am an American before anything. And just like every American I have the right to speak!"

On Friday, he made a statement thanking Burns: "I'd have to thank him more than anything for bringing national attention to the issue." He also expressed surprise that Burns would try to silence him.

Minnesota Vikings punter Chris Kluwe wrote a letter for Deadspin. Laced with graphic language and disgust, he berated Burns for his views.

"Your vitriolic hatred and bigotry make me ashamed and disgusted to think that you are in any way responsible for shaping policy at any level," Kluwe wrote. "The views you espouse neglect to consider several fundamental key points, which I will outline in great detail (you may want to hire an intern to help you with the longer words)."

Kluwe went on to address (in the great detail he mentioned) the facets of the First Amendment, Burns' comment about athletes speaking out on issues, freedom in general and how little same-sex marriage would affect Burns' life.

"I can assure you that gay people getting married will have zero effect on your life," Kluwe wrote.

On Saturday, Kluwe published an edited version of the letter on the Twin Cities "Out of Bounds" blog, as well as a response to people complaining about his use of "colorful insults" in the original letter.

"The swearing is there for a reason," he wrote. "What Emmett C. Burns Jr. wrote, what I responded to, was far more disgusting and foul minded than any simple scatological reference or genital mashup."

Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker LaMarr Woodley also tweeted in support of Ayanbadejo - even though he's not "pro Raven about anything."

NFL Players Association President Domonique Foxworth told The Baltimore Sun that he was "disappointed" in Burns.

"I don’t know if I can come up with a strong enough word, but his request was asinine," Foxworth told the newspaper. "I think Brendon’s commendable. To step out into the fire and say something controversial, that’s not something that comes lightly."

On Friday, Ayanbadejo told The Baltimore Sun that team president Dick Cass let him know that the Ravens supported Ayanbadejo's ability to voice his opinion, and in a statement, Cass let everyone know that "We support Brendon's right to freedom of speech under the First Amendment" as an organization that doesn't discriminate.

What do you think about the dueling letters and Ayanbadejo's support of same-sex marriage that started it all? Let us know in the comments below.

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Filed under: Football • Politics • Pro football • Same-sex marriage • Sports
soundoff (768 Responses)
  1. bobcat (in a hat)©

    A Jewish missionary went to Africa to educate a tribe of pygmies called Trids. After a few weeks, during the first full moon, the Rabbi noticed theTrids getting nervous. Then all of a sudden, a giant gorilla came out of the jungle and started kicking the Trids up in the trees. The Rabbi confronted the gorilla and said, "Pick on someone your own size!" The gorilla replied, "Silly Rabbi, kicks are for Trids!"

    September 8, 2012 at 3:17 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • banasy©

      Hey, Rawr.

      September 8, 2012 at 3:23 pm | Report abuse |
    • bobcat (in a hat)©

      Hey banasy

      How are you doing today ? I saw where someone has been jacking us on the other thread, so I left them a little message and headed in this direction.
      I'll probably be in and out all day, so watch my back if you would. And thank you for catching the one on the other thread. Talk to you later.

      September 8, 2012 at 3:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • banasy©

      I'm fine, thank you.
      I'll always have your back; that's what friends do.
      Thanks for the jokes.
      Have a great afternoon.

      September 8, 2012 at 3:55 pm | Report abuse |
  2. banasy©

    I don't think it matters to the NFL what one's personal and political views are, and what Burns was trying to do; to wit: silence this guy, is much more controversial that what Ayanbadejo
    Said in the first place.

    September 8, 2012 at 3:17 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  3. Rstarr

    Repubs long for their definition of liberty not ours.

    September 8, 2012 at 4:32 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • Swashbuckler

      Unfortunately, Burns is a Democrat.

      September 9, 2012 at 7:34 am | Report abuse |
  4. EPAB

    It's great to see someone stand up to these Neaderthalithic age bullies. Time is passing you by Burns. Just go away.

    September 8, 2012 at 4:33 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  5. Rick

    If Tebow can express his opinion so can Ayanbadejo

    September 8, 2012 at 4:33 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • Janet

      Well said!

      September 8, 2012 at 4:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • sameeker

      Agree 100%

      September 8, 2012 at 8:36 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Eric

    I have no problem with the Raven player expressing his views. But to think that athletes can or should say what they want is incorrect.There have been several athletes and sports comentators over the last few years who even though they have a first amendment right to say what they want have gotten in to trouble for using terms that are not acceptable deemed acceptable.

    September 8, 2012 at 4:44 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • Boooourns!

      they can say whatever they want. It's their right. Just as it is your right to agree, disagree, debate or ignore their comments. Who are you to deem an opinion unacceptable?

      September 8, 2012 at 4:51 pm | Report abuse |
    • BryanW

      There's no question that our actions and speech can have consequences, it's entirely possible that Kluwe will be talked with regarding his profanity laced tirade and how that may go against the professionalism that the Ravens expect from their players, but an elected representative attempting to silence free speech is completely insane. Disagree with their opinion, boycott the Ravens if you want, but sending a letter to the team's owner asking that he silence his players is way beyond any reasonable response.

      September 8, 2012 at 4:54 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Matthew Temple

    An elected official attempting to have a person’s free speech curtailed.. isn’t that a civil rights violation. OH NO!! of course it’s not!!! because Emmett C. Burns Jr. knows that gay people don’t have civil rights and neither does anyone who defends them..

    September 8, 2012 at 4:44 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  8. Paradigm

    Speaking of gay marriage, is Tebow out of the closet yet?

    September 8, 2012 at 4:46 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  9. flyint0o

    Good for Burns and the people who voiced support for him. I think it is very telling what kind of person Emmett C. Burns Jr. is for him to send such a hate-filled letter to the owner of the team. To me it was very cowardly, like the spoiled kid on the playground trying to tell teacher on the peers he doesn't get along with with. To think this man holds office is scary. Just the wording he used in his letter. I never get why all these religious figures are the most judgmental ones of all... wasn't there something in the bible about not judging?

    September 8, 2012 at 4:49 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  10. lloyd roberts

    Wow, just listening to that reverand is the reason why freedom and civil liberties can not exist alongside religion. They are mutually exclusive

    September 8, 2012 at 4:49 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  11. Jeff Frank (R-Ohio) "The Lunatic Fringe"

    I, as most of you know, am a republican. And now? Since I do have compassion and a big heart, I do fully support gay marriage, on other planets (like Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, Neptune, Uranus, just not Earth.

    September 8, 2012 at 4:50 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • Braedon Peyton

      Well, as you may or may not know, I do not follow the Bible or any religion in particular. Having said that,because I do have compassion and a big heart...I support you and yours being able to worship whatever invisible sky wizard that you choose to (on Neptune,Pluto,Uranus, not Mars or Saturn though as I like those planets and because I am sporting I will throw in Venus and Mercury, I am just that kind of guy!) just not here on earth, ya know?

      September 8, 2012 at 5:03 pm | Report abuse |
    • Rstarr

      Another bigot in the name of God/Burns.

      September 8, 2012 at 5:08 pm | Report abuse |
    • sqeptiq

      You didn't have to tell us you were a republican; the bigotry is signature enough.

      September 8, 2012 at 10:00 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jeff

      Very appropriate description of yourself. We dont need support from people like you. BTW...I dont support you procreating.

      September 9, 2012 at 10:22 am | Report abuse |
  12. Robert

    Too late.

    September 8, 2012 at 4:51 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  13. Greg

    Just another brick in the wall being removed. America was/is a Christian Nation. Just another small example going against what used to be one of our countries values. Wonder how long our standing in the world will last the way we are headed.
    Sad. If it feels good do it, huh? Might as well, no reason not to!

    September 8, 2012 at 4:52 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • Doug

      Um, actually, Greg, America is not "a Christian nation"; in case you are not familiar with your own country's Bill of Rights, you might want to familiarize yourself with its first amendment, which guarantees freedom of religion and freedom of speech.

      If you would like to live in a theocracy, however, you might consider emigrating to Yemen, Afghanistan, Somalia or the Sudan. Sure, the ruling religion in these countries doesn't happen to be the one you espouse, but that shouldn't bother you since you seem to feel it would be perfectly fine to make your fellow Americans live by the laws of your preferred religion!

      September 8, 2012 at 5:57 pm | Report abuse |
    • tara10

      What's sad is your erroneous belief that clinging to bigotry in the name of Christianity will do anything but speed up the decline in respect the rest of the world is feeling for America.

      September 8, 2012 at 6:14 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jeff

      Good post. In God we Trust, founding Fathers thought that important, I guess, as it's on most of the federal buildings in DC and our money. Lots of ways to honor God with different religions, don't know of many that promote couples who can't keep the species going; doesn't make much sense. People are capable of "lovin" all sorts of things that aren't meant to be or good for them. Hate shouldn't come into the discussion.

      September 8, 2012 at 6:19 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mauricio Gutierrez

      Yes... one brick at a time, that's the way we will finally knock down the oppressive wall that hinders our collective moral conscience from evolving. Perhaps not the most effective choice of words (con'science', evolve), since those concepts are not well embraced by your kind. Regardless, the evolution of morality, the same natural progression that created the suffrage and civil rights movements, is finally clearing the way for removal of the last remaining bastion of human-right oppression in our 'advance' society.

      September 8, 2012 at 6:20 pm | Report abuse |
    • SRM

      "Wonder how long our standing in the world will last..."
      Well, the sad truth is that we are already playing catch-up. Israel removed the discriminatory rules about 'gays in the military' in 1993 (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/LGBT_rights_in_Israel#Military_service). Britain and Canada also removed that restriction way before us. According to a CNN article from the period of our great debate on this issue (http://articles.cnn.com/2009-04-16/politics/frank.gays.military_1_openly-gay-service-government-accountability-office-study-flag-and-general-officers?_s=PM:POLITICS (sorry, it looks like the second two pages of this article have disappeared)), other countries didn't take months of investigating the logistics of implementing this change, or creating sensitivity training; they just gave the order and it happened.
      So, I guess our standing in the world will lag behind until we can start showing humanity and that we are civilized.

      September 8, 2012 at 7:59 pm | Report abuse |
    • motorfirebox

      "In God We Trust" was not a phrase in common circulation when the country was founded. It originated during the War of 1812. It wasn't printed on coins until 1864, more than thirty years after the last founding father died. It wasn't taken as the official motto of the US until 1956.

      September 8, 2012 at 8:01 pm | Report abuse |
    • geggyg

      @jeff
      Do an internet search "in god we trust" was added to the US currency in around 1950 , the same with god in the pledge of allegiance , a relatively new addition , and the founding fathers didnt mandate or even encourage "in god we trust" on govt buildings. Maybe Benjamin Franklin was even more of a genius than everyone thought , and he he invented a time machine and brought the whole team forward and got the govts to adopt those terms in the 20th century.

      September 9, 2012 at 11:02 am | Report abuse |
    • sam stone

      Greg: Which value are you speaking of?

      Equal Protection under the law, or bigotry?

      September 9, 2012 at 2:06 pm | Report abuse |
  14. John

    Truth is absolute and one's opinions, beliefs, or feelings have no bearing on it. When the Light illuminates the Truth, it is the darkness that retreats for it cannot defeat the Light which is victorious. Contemplate on that o'wise men! Behold, He comes quickly!

    September 8, 2012 at 4:52 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • David

      What the HELL are you babbling about?

      September 8, 2012 at 4:59 pm | Report abuse |
    • Fearless Freep

      Contemplate on that o'wise men! Behold, He comes quickly!

      He has been coming for 2000 years.
      Dont hold your breath.

      September 8, 2012 at 5:41 pm | Report abuse |
    • sqeptiq

      The light is beginning to shine...that all people shall be treated with respect, not just those the theists approve of.

      September 8, 2012 at 10:04 pm | Report abuse |
  15. rob

    Kudos to Kluwe and Ayanbadejo for taking a stand against hatred, bigotry, and intolerance. Kluwe's letter was awesome! And I'll never understand why right-wing religious fanatics think they can force other normal people to accept their deviant views and lifestyle. They love to tell other people how to live their lives, while their own lives are in shambles. The Christian (esp. Catholic, Mormon, Evangelical, and Southern Baptist) Taliban in this country are going to face a violent wake up call soon if they keep trying to spread their hatred, intolerant views, and intolerant actions on normal Americans. And it is patently unfair that gays and their loved ones should be devastated by discriminatory actions, while the bigots and their families go about enjoying their lives as if nothing is wrong. It's time to start making bigots pay for the discriminatory actions they take. When they have to pay a price, they might start to rethink their actions. Anyone reading this should take WHATEVER ACTIONS POSSIBLE to harm Emmett Burns, the other bigoted Maryland legislators, or their loved ones, to make them pay for the harm they are doing to the people they discriminate against.

    September 8, 2012 at 4:53 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • Boooourns!

      Wow, I think Burns is an A$ $ hole, but whatever actions possible to harm him? That sounds a little like Klansman/Skin head thinkin'

      September 8, 2012 at 4:56 pm | Report abuse |
    • Alex

      Sadly, your "call to arms" to harm not only the idiot Burns but his friends and family puts in exactly the same position as Burns himself: an uninformed idiot who fails to recognize that in this country we debate and argue, but should not resort to violence. Worst of all you call for action against innocent people who have nothing to do with the original action by Burns. I pity you.

      September 8, 2012 at 5:10 pm | Report abuse |
    • Reality99

      Robbie is a typical little hypocrite. No wonder sane people laugh at the little hatemonger that wants to "harm" people who merely exercise their free speech.

      September 8, 2012 at 5:20 pm | Report abuse |
    • sally

      Do not harm anyone. I totally agree with the email but I may be reading it wrong about harming anyone. Just make sure this guy is not reelected and has to get a job, like so many others are trying to do.

      September 8, 2012 at 5:22 pm | Report abuse |
    • TJ

      Rob, you have some serious issues. I suggest you get a reality check soon, before you attempt being the next AdoIph. You are one hateful, mean-spirited, vitriolic person. And I'm being gentle here.

      September 8, 2012 at 5:24 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ed

      Dude, you're not helping the cause. Try to maintain the high ground.

      September 8, 2012 at 5:35 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dumb A-- Minister

      I guess our Minister failed to read the first amendment. I am no supporter of gay marriage, but the minister's comments and effort to quash the discussion are an afront to society.

      September 8, 2012 at 5:40 pm | Report abuse |
    • ezg437

      Harm does not have to mean violent. He did not say kill, punch, beat up, knife, cut, stab, shoot, and so on. He said harm and I agree with that. Harm him by telling those around him what a jerk he is, how non-Christian he is, dont do business with him. That sort of thing. If he did mean anything like I listed above then I do agree with the others who replied. Here's what they hate to hear: JESUS WAS GAY. 30 something, never married, no kids, kind and charming, good looking (according to the aglo pictures) running around the desert with 12 other dudes. You get the point ; )

      September 8, 2012 at 5:50 pm | Report abuse |
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