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. MagicPanties

    This is only an issue if your public comments are not considered "mainstream".
    As others have pointed out, Tebow proclaiming his christianity is just fine with Brendon's detractors.
    It's only a problem when the espoused views don't align with right-wing ideology.

    September 9, 2012 at 8:41 am | Report abuse |
    • Mark

      I'm sorry to see that Tebow isn't good enough to start. He makes me sick, and if he's not playing, he can't get hurt.

      September 9, 2012 at 10:45 am | Report abuse |
  2. berkshire brian

    Did Rev and Rep Burns ask the CEO of Chik-Fil-A to stay out of political discourse? No, I think not. This is the fundamental problem with fundamentalists: they're hypocrites.

    September 9, 2012 at 8:46 am | Report abuse |
  3. Loki

    That football player can say what he wants. Perfect. Boycott the Ravens. Give the team a taste of Chick-fil-a treatment. And didn't that nasty twinkle toes Emmanuel try to ban CFA from Chicago ? Gays....no free speech with them either.

    September 9, 2012 at 9:02 am | Report abuse |
    • The Hat of the Three-Toed Man-Baby

      Go right ahead, I doubt you'll be missed. And don't pretend the players work for you and should care at all what you think - they work for the owners. Fans are ridiculous, using "we" to describe a football team they don't even work for, let alone play for.

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

      Is there anything more absurd than whining that LGBT Americans oppose free speech? Just how did we limit yours? Hey, you forgot to claim anti-gays' intended victims are "the real haters" too.

      September 9, 2012 at 10:01 am | Report abuse |
  4. DavidL

    "He also expressed surprise that Burns would try to silence him."

    Why would he be surprised? This is what Fascists do – the want to take away your right of free speech. They want to control what you can and cannot say. Nothing new here. These republicans are fascists. Simple as that.

    September 9, 2012 at 9:03 am | Report abuse |
    • SandyR

      Emmett C. Burns, Jr. is an American politician from Maryland and a member of the Democratic Party. He is currently serving his fourth term in the Maryland House of Delegates, representing Maryland's District 10 in Baltimore County. Get your facts straight before you start accusing the wrong group of people. You are also an example of hypocrisy.

      September 9, 2012 at 9:32 am | Report abuse |
    • CarrotCakeMan

      Republicans are fascists, Sandy, and now you can point to one Democrat who's just as bad as Republicans.

      September 9, 2012 at 10:03 am | Report abuse |
    • JQuin

      @ CarrotCakeMan, You have no idea what a fascist is.

      September 9, 2012 at 10:12 am | Report abuse |
  5. Loki

    I like beans and franks in the closet.

    September 9, 2012 at 9:09 am | Report abuse |
    • sam stone

      Is there enough room for both you AND frank in the closet? Better get down on your knees.....to make more room, that is

      September 9, 2012 at 10:11 am | Report abuse |
  6. So What?

    Yet again both sides show how utterly ridiculous they both are. Burns should be ashamed for trying to silence Ayanbadejo. Kluwe should be equally ashamed for penning such an over-the-top and tasteless response and dragging his side down into the mud when Ayanbadejo had already staked out the high ground.

    September 9, 2012 at 9:23 am | Report abuse |
    • Mitzi

      Why should he be ashamed of penning that letter? Because it has some naughty language in it? So?

      September 9, 2012 at 4:41 pm | Report abuse |
  7. 0Patrick0

    I like the way Burns presumes to speak for all the Raven fans. What an idiot! Wouldn't surprise me to hear he's never been to a Ravens game.

    September 9, 2012 at 9:26 am | Report abuse |
    • Mitzi

      Burns speaks for Burns, and what little congregation has has.

      September 9, 2012 at 4:42 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Gerald Tinnon

    This is still America. Both individuals help the right to their views. What is not right is when one of the individuals uses his/her position and power to squash the other person's opinion. Why is it always the right (or the GOP) that wants to limit freedom?

    September 9, 2012 at 9:26 am | Report abuse |
  9. malw

    So in essence, Burns wants the Ravens to move and act against its employees first ammendment right to free speech and squash that voice and opinion of that employee. Maybe he should be a lawmaker and minister in a country that squashes free speech. God bless his congregation and may God open their eyes.

    September 9, 2012 at 9:32 am | Report abuse |
  10. Annie

    All I can think us that some young person's life might have been saved, knowing there are even more people out there that support him/her and will fight for their right to equality when their own parents are disowning them.

    September 9, 2012 at 9:36 am | Report abuse |
  11. HillClimber

    How amusing! Since when did politicians (or football players for that matter) for have a say in God's decree? Marriage or no marriage is just fine by God – it is the opportunity for two souls to act together for common purpose that the arrangement of marriage exists at all – simply stated it is Karma. God has no problem with "gay" in any form and I have had several soul mates in close relationships this lifetime – including one that God asked me to take care of as he was being born 30 years before we were to meet. I wait now even to bring together my soul mate told to me at the time of his birth 49 years ago, and our meeting to occur yet in the future. For edification, straight or gay relationships must be based on Love, not Lust or other self-serving purpose to have God's blessing. By the way – it is time to get religion out of my government. After all religion fully embraces God, but God does not embrace religion.

    September 9, 2012 at 9:55 am | Report abuse |
    • Mitzi

      I don't even know how to respond to this. Um, what?

      September 9, 2012 at 4:43 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Jeff

    First I respect the ability of both sides to express their views. BTW I support Mr. Ayanbadejo's view wholeheartedly. What shocks me is with all the great attornies in this country no one has raised Mr. Burn's action as a potential "Tortious Interfernce with Contract". Although I support his attempt to debate his issues (and I surmise he has alot of them) in public forums, he cannot interfere with the contract Mr. Ayanbadejo has with the NFL. I am not a lawyer but I would think Mr. Burns is skating on "thin ice". If anyone ever tried a stunt like this on me I would welcome the chance to call my lawyer.

    September 9, 2012 at 10:04 am | Report abuse |
  13. Christopher Hogan

    Naturally, all the Chick Fil A supporters who rushed to defend Dan Cathy's free speech condemning gay marriage will also defend Brendon Ayanbadejo's, right?

    September 9, 2012 at 10:12 am | Report abuse |
    • Mitzi

      Of course not, they don't agree with A's view.

      September 9, 2012 at 4:45 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Christopher Hogan

    So, Dan Cathy of chick fil a has the right to speak his mind condemning gay marriage, but Brendon Ayanbadejo doesn't have the right to support it? What hypocrisy!

    September 9, 2012 at 10:14 am | Report abuse |
    • Mark

      Football players just get their salary, based on their play. Mr. Cathy got a big jump in sales, for a few weeks, and is now hurting his company. Sure it's hypocrisy, but Mr. Cathy has harmed his own workers, his sales, and has lost The Muppets.
      I intend to boycott all these loud mouthed "Faithy" companies, like Marriott, Chick fil A, Tyson, etc. They are irresponsible as CEO's, and economics is the only lesson they will learn.

      September 9, 2012 at 10:41 am | Report abuse |
    • Good Idea

      Yeah, punishing the workers for their "faithy" bosses is a great way to teach the innocent workers a lesson. "Don't try to support your families unless your boss will never make political statements." Dan Cathy will be fine, he can just retire. His workers and their families can just suffer though so you can make a point.

      September 9, 2012 at 10:52 am | Report abuse |
  15. BP

    I think Chris Kluwe loves guys!

    September 9, 2012 at 10:28 am | Report abuse |
    • Jane

      I think BP lives in the dark ages.

      September 9, 2012 at 10:40 am | Report abuse |
    • Brian

      Obviously the big words are confusing and threatening to you...the way you reject anything different or new, you must be a closed-minded Republican! Which IS an insult, unlike calling someone gay.

      September 9, 2012 at 10:40 am | Report abuse |
    • Fearless Freep

      I think BP loves Chris.

      September 9, 2012 at 11:58 am | Report abuse |
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