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. Dan

    Go Ayanbadejo & Kluwe! 🙂 You make our country proud 🙂

    September 9, 2012 at 3:24 am | Report abuse |
  2. dogface

    He's got it so nice. First amendment means squat in most workplaces.

    September 9, 2012 at 3:32 am | Report abuse |
  3. Blondie

    Shame to the biogoted right wing christian pentocostal conservative white men freak-0's has been justly brought. La la la la la la la la la la la. AMERICA WAKE UP! The republican GOP has been HIJACKED by right wing christian NUT JOBS and would like to oppress GAYS and WOMEN and MINORITIES! SO glad this happened.

    September 9, 2012 at 3:35 am | Report abuse |
    • J=AJ

      it was a black democrat who wrote the letter
      not the white republican hijacker of freedome you are implicating
      to move forward we need honest criticicism (like kluwe) not more hate speach

      September 9, 2012 at 3:59 am | Report abuse |
  4. RichardSRussell

    As a lifelong die-hard Packer fan, I now have a new-found (if still grudging) respect for the Vikings. Thank you, Chris Kluwe, for saying what needed to be said, in the only language likely to get thru Emmett Burns's thick skull.

    September 9, 2012 at 3:39 am | Report abuse |
  5. Doc Ock

    "State lawmaker and minister "....the two do not belong together.

    September 9, 2012 at 4:00 am | Report abuse |
    • UsayWha?


      September 9, 2012 at 7:06 am | Report abuse |
  6. J=AJ

    straight muscle men in support of gay marriage are hot

    September 9, 2012 at 4:00 am | Report abuse |
  7. happy news

    Well researched, mulled over, and insightfully written about.

    September 9, 2012 at 4:02 am | Report abuse |
  8. kenny

    its soooo sad when people on the losing side of history dont realize they are LOSING... being anti gay is pretty much like being a member of the clan... you guys are done, finished, over... the youth of this country have spoken go bury your heads in the sand until you die old bigoted religious people...

    September 9, 2012 at 4:48 am | Report abuse |
  9. larry5

    The football player is correct. He has a job but he also has a right to speak. On top of all that the noise about his statements only serves to promote his career. He has a job and it's football but from another perspective it's entertainment and show business. Write what you will, but get the team name right and the spelling of his name correct.

    September 9, 2012 at 5:39 am | Report abuse |
  10. Missing Link

    This idiot Burns wants to be able to say whatever he wants, but doesn't want to afford anyone that disagrees with him the same right.

    September 9, 2012 at 5:57 am | Report abuse |
    • T

      When did he say that?

      September 9, 2012 at 7:14 am | Report abuse |
    • Mitzi

      In the letter he wrote to the Raven's organization, T. How did you miss that?

      September 9, 2012 at 4:26 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Joe Mora

    It's baffling how people can so strongly support something they would never consider themselves.

    September 9, 2012 at 6:01 am | Report abuse |
    • T

      Nothing baffling about it at all. People see other people being treated as less-thans and step in to do something about it. Just because there's no personal gain doesn't mean we should just ignore the fact that gay people are treated as second-rate citizens.

      September 9, 2012 at 7:11 am | Report abuse |
  12. Joe Mora

    Of course Apendejo supports it, Africa is infested with Aids and they need to keep the money train flowing.

    September 9, 2012 at 6:12 am | Report abuse |
    • sam stone

      What has Africa got to do with this, Joey?

      September 9, 2012 at 10:18 am | Report abuse |
  13. noboat1

    Maybe he'd prefer playng center instead.

    September 9, 2012 at 6:53 am | Report abuse |
  14. LDUB

    Thank you, Ayanbadejo and Kluwe, for standing up for equal rights and freedom of speech. It means more than you know! Burns' request to shut you down is ludicrous., just as Joe Mora's comments are.

    September 9, 2012 at 7:07 am | Report abuse |
  15. George

    Everyone has First Amendment rights. But sometimes using them will cause a problem. Just like the CEO of chik-fil-a. It's probably wise for someone in commerce or entertainment to give controversial subjects a wide berth. You're selling to, or entertaining, everyone, and voicing an opinion on a divisive subject is guaranteed to alieniate a whole slew of customers. I happen to agree with Ayanbadejo, but he has to realize he's going to anger some fans by speaking out on the subject.

    September 9, 2012 at 7:15 am | Report abuse |
    • ajbuff

      But gee, this very argument could have been used to silence Tebow last year? We had to listen to his continuous praises of God and traditional and very irrelevant and primitive positions on family values and life – and we all sat by silently while he alienated a majority of the population and a huge chunk of the fan base – because WE RESPECT HIS 1st AMENDMENT RIGHT to express his views and we recognize that he is there to play football and not run the country. Suddenly, when these guys exercise their 1st Amendment rights, and what could be either their political or religious views, some tell them to be silent. The two situations are no different in terms of potentially alienating fans. And actually, since MD has accepted gay marriage, and the majority of Americans support it, they probably earned a ton of new fans now.... Was Mr. Burns complaining about Tebow last year I wonder?

      September 9, 2012 at 7:29 am | Report abuse |
    • Ginny

      ajbuff- "we all sat by silently" in regards to Tim Tebow. What rock were you hiding under?

      September 9, 2012 at 7:53 am | Report abuse |
    • AusieSceptic1

      notice that you have expressed an opinion, if Burns had his way the only opinions he would allow are opinions he shares. obviously Burns is an opponent of free speech

      September 9, 2012 at 7:56 am | Report abuse |
    • fekt

      Why would I not be suprised to learn this man has a picture of hmself proudly eating a chic-fil-a sandwich and expressing his support for the free speech of a corporation.

      September 9, 2012 at 8:16 am | Report abuse |
    • nick212

      You either have First Amendment Rights or you don't. Clearly the Founders thought that it would be necessary to make them a tenet of American democracy, and tried to elevate them beyond the realm of argument. It would be difficult to argue, even from a conservative (presumptuous and reconstructionist) argument that a group of Founders – who were predominantly Deists (against organized religion) would have intended anything else.

      September 9, 2012 at 10:37 am | Report abuse |
    • Jock Catchaball

      But gee, this very argument could have been used to silence Tebow last year?

      I love how Tebow kneels and thanks God for a touchdown,
      but never blames god for an interception.
      Kinda stupid when you think about it.

      If everytime somebody made a good play in a football game, and stopped to praise god,
      Wouldnt the game take six hours ?

      September 9, 2012 at 11:38 am | Report abuse |
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