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. BP

    All you viking players watch out you dont drop the bar of soap next to Kluwe.

    September 9, 2012 at 10:31 am | Report abuse |
    • MediaSells

      Good one. Very original & more so...very revealing of your limited brain capacity. Obviously you never read the original letter to even comment.

      September 9, 2012 at 10:49 am | Report abuse |
    • Marc

      I'm sorry your Mom didn't hug you enough as a child, but your naivety, bigotry and bullying just shows you are part of the problem.

      September 9, 2012 at 10:49 am | Report abuse |
    • truth1063

      Kluwe's favorite pickup line – "Mind if I push in your stool?"

      September 9, 2012 at 11:27 am | Report abuse |
    • Bill the Cat

      SO nice to see the anti-traditional marriage people display their bigotry of anything they disagree with.

      September 9, 2012 at 11:28 am | Report abuse |
    • Dorothy

      Who wouldn't be anti-"traditional" marriage. TRUE traditional marriage was when the woman became the property of a man. I don't know too many of us who would want to go back to the 'traditional" meaning of marriage.

      September 9, 2012 at 11:40 am | Report abuse |
    • Bill the Cat

      Dorothy, you are intentionally being obtuse. You know what I meant by traditional marriage. One man – One woman.

      September 9, 2012 at 11:41 am | Report abuse |
    • Dorothy

      I quite understand what you are advocating, Bill....it's called selective traditionalism.

      September 9, 2012 at 11:57 am | Report abuse |
    • sam stone

      he is advocating for cultural stagnation under the guise of "tradition"

      September 9, 2012 at 1:01 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Rascal Rabble City Attorney and Council Representative

    oh pleeze...

    September 9, 2012 at 10:36 am | Report abuse |
  3. Sparky

    This is about Freedom.
    There is a trend which has emerged over the past year which is alarming.
    If one speaks out in opposition to the Conservative Propoganda restricitng equality and freedom for Marriage or abortion, The conservatives tell them they are not allowed to speak. We have seen this both here, and with the GOP Question and Answer sessions where they restrict questions.

    I have learned during this Election that the Conservative GOP views closely Resemble Facist positions and are contrary to the Freedoms that so many in this Country fought for and died for.

    No longer any question in my mind. I believe in preserving our freedom and the Equality this country has fought for.
    I believe in the Democrats and am terrified of the GOP turning this country into a Nazi society.

    September 9, 2012 at 10:46 am | Report abuse |
    • Ummm

      Umm... The lawmaker, Emmett Burns, is a Democrat and NOT a Republican....

      September 9, 2012 at 10:57 am | Report abuse |
    • Hey

      I am a republican and I am pretty sure I don't want a neo-nazi state. The ONLY difference between me and you is that you support rapid change through the people, were as I support keeping traditions alive and sticking to the system. Neither you or I is evil, maybe the country could be a little more successful if people would just realize we are all the same species.

      September 9, 2012 at 11:45 am | Report abuse |
    • Fearless Freep


      I am a republican and I am pretty sure I don't want a neo-nazi state. The ONLY difference between me and you is that you support rapid change through the people, were as I support keeping traditions alive and sticking to the system. Neither you or I is evil, maybe the country could be a little more successful if people would just realize we are all the same species.

      My "side" isnt trying to pass laws against "your" side.
      We didnt strat the fight, but we are going to finish it.

      September 9, 2012 at 12:01 pm | Report abuse |
    • Hey

      I have nothing against liberals and would never pass a law against your "side". There are no "sides" there is one government we share for better or worse, that we gain power over from time to time. I do not hate anyone. So please learn to tolerate other political views, cultures, and beliefs.

      September 9, 2012 at 12:14 pm | Report abuse |
    • sam stone

      hey: you do understand when your "traditions, cultures and beliefs" deny a group of people their civil rights, people are going to get angry.....don't you?

      September 9, 2012 at 1:04 pm | Report abuse |
  4. BP

    Oh Brian I cant stand any political party im just having fun taking a harmless poke at Chris Kluwe. I have gay people in my family and I can care less what people chose to do with their lives.

    September 9, 2012 at 10:49 am | Report abuse |
  5. MediaSells

    The original letter is hilarious because it's COMPLETELY ACCURATE. Gay marriage has ZERO effect on anyone – except the industry stimulates the economy rather impressively in addition to the current wedding industry. User your brains people, you can't afford to say 'no' to money making oppurtunities when you're all in debt like you are.

    September 9, 2012 at 10:50 am | Report abuse |
    • Rascal Rabble

      that's not true...children of gay parents have turn out to be as high risk as those children displaced by parents in prison...not to count healthcare cost associated with the lifestyle...

      September 9, 2012 at 11:14 am | Report abuse |
    • sam stone

      Good idea, Rascal, denying them equal rights helps a lot....

      September 9, 2012 at 11:29 am | Report abuse |
    • truth1063

      Marriage isn't a right. Have you read the bill of rights or are you just choosing to redefine it on your own?

      September 9, 2012 at 11:31 am | Report abuse |
    • Bill the Cat

      It will cost more money in benefits and insurance premiums if it is legalized.

      September 9, 2012 at 11:33 am | Report abuse |
    • Dorothy

      So Rascal....you're saying that a married, monogamous "lifestyle" increases healthcare costs? Because that is what gays are advocating here (duh!). If that's the case we should stop the hetroes from leading that type of lifestyle, shouldn't we!??!

      September 9, 2012 at 11:38 am | Report abuse |
    • Bill the Cat

      Dorothy, again you are playing word games. The increase in marital and inheritance benefits caused by an influx of marriages that would typically not have been offered will increase premiums and taxes across the board.

      September 9, 2012 at 11:43 am | Report abuse |
    • Dorothy

      So Bill....what you're saying is that you would prefer people NOT be insured. If gay marriage got more people on insurance plans it would help healthcare so that hospitals didn't have to give out so much free medical care (commonly referred to as "self-pay.")

      September 9, 2012 at 11:44 am | Report abuse |
    • Bill the Cat

      No. I am not saying that. 2 people paying single pay premiums are typically more than a couple paying member and spouse rates.

      September 9, 2012 at 11:46 am | Report abuse |
    • Dorothy

      which, in turn, will get more people on healthcare and help decrease the need for charity care. A win-win.

      September 9, 2012 at 11:53 am | Report abuse |
    • Fidgit


      Marriage isn't a right.

      Yes it is.
      Nice try.

      September 9, 2012 at 12:03 pm | Report abuse |
    • Robert

      I think Bill the Cat needs to go lick something. Aside from that @Rascal I don't know where you got your data, but you are sadly mistaken (please provide the study name, university and author(s) of the report of which you made your statement ). Being an adoptive GAY father of three children I can tell you first-hand that you (and this "study" – which I highly believe was construed in your limited thinking brain) are nothing short of wrong. Of my children, the birth mother and father literally produced children, went into a hospital during labor then immediately disappeared right after giving birth. One of my other children was running in a busy street in his diaper because his mother was too high on drugs to realize he escaped the motel they were living in. This same child was also severely abused to the tune of being burned by cigarettes all over his body and given many scars from God only knows. These are the children who are languishing in child protective services, children who you and others choose not to see. You want to put your money where your (hate spewing) mouth is, go adopt or foster children right NOW who need your love and support, because @Rascal, that's what it is all about – LOVE.

      September 9, 2012 at 12:14 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jane

      Robert. You are a lovely man and I am so happy your 3 beatutiful kids get ro have a life filled with all the crazy ups and downs all children deserve! (ps keep an eye on that middle child I hear they "suffer" the most or at least my sister swears she does!)

      September 9, 2012 at 12:30 pm | Report abuse |
    • sam stone

      truth1063: According to the Supreme Court, Marriage IS a civil right (Loving Vs. Virginia (1967))

      September 9, 2012 at 1:05 pm | Report abuse |
    • sam stone

      truth1063: "neither facts nor embarrasment seem to have any effect on them"

      okay, "truth", does a citation that marriage IS a civl right have any effect on you, or are you going to continue on with your bigotry nevertheless?

      September 9, 2012 at 1:09 pm | Report abuse |
    • Rascal Rabble

      sorry for the delay, i was watching a football game...do your own research the publications and data are readily available for those who want t'see...I fail to see the benefit of trading one dysfunctional family structure for another...gay adoption is nothing more than political move to candy coat lgtb agenda and to indoctrinate an already marginalized segment of children with your erroneous ganda...wolf hiding
      behind lamb's clothing...the innocence of children...sandusky targeted the same population, too...high-risk wards of the state....i find that kinner love insidously selfish....

      September 9, 2012 at 6:12 pm | Report abuse |
    • Numskullduggery

      In other words you just pulled that out of your behind.

      September 9, 2012 at 6:19 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mitzi

      I wonder just how many of you will adopt one of those "marginalized children". Why are these children available for adoption? Because you self-righteous hypocrits, YOU, yes YOU, Rascal Rabble, have failed to do YOUR dury and a Christian and adopt them. So YOU would deny these kids a chance at a stable home because YOU feel same gender marriage is wrong? You're full of something, and it isn't the light of The Holy Spirit!! You also need to look up the difference between"gay" and "pedophile" because CLEARLY you equate the two as being one and the same. Jesus wept...shame on you!

      September 9, 2012 at 6:41 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Kris Fetter

    I think that some politicians would like it if we went back to the 1800s where neither women nor black people (gays? not even) had rights. That anyone would dare sully 'their' political process by being progressive or actually thinking for ourselves. Way to go, Mr. Ayanbadejo!! Also, I applaud the NFL for telling that idiot to go suck a lemon.

    September 9, 2012 at 10:51 am | Report abuse |
    • Bill the Cat

      So, do you applaud the NBA for silencing Kobe Bryant, Joikim Noah, and Amare Stoudemire?

      September 9, 2012 at 11:36 am | Report abuse |
  7. Bo Cobb

    bravo for Brendon Ayanbadejo !

    September 9, 2012 at 11:02 am | Report abuse |
  8. Wow

    Just found out Emmett Burns is a Democrat... Hope that actually does make all the anti-GOP bigotscommenting feel a bit awkward.

    September 9, 2012 at 11:06 am | Report abuse |
    • truth1063

      neither facts nor embarrasment seem to have any effect on them...

      September 9, 2012 at 11:33 am | Report abuse |
    • Fidgit


      Just found out Emmett Burns is a Democrat... Hope that actually does make all the anti-GOP bigotscommenting feel a bit awkward.

      Not at all.
      We got one.
      You have thousands.
      I guess we have some catching up to do........not.

      September 9, 2012 at 12:16 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Larry

    Clerics should not be allowed to be law makers. I am not gay but I believe allowing gay marriage would in no way affect my life either.

    September 9, 2012 at 11:21 am | Report abuse |
    • Bill the Cat

      It would make your insurance premiums and your taxes increase.

      September 9, 2012 at 11:37 am | Report abuse |
    • Mitzi

      Bill, I hardly think that denying a whole segment of the population the right to marry because it would increase my premium by a few bucks is a worthy argument for denying them that right. Let them marry.

      September 9, 2012 at 4:51 pm | Report abuse |
  10. TheGreenMan

    Football, politics AND gay marriage. What a heady mix. There must be something in there for the protected minorities tp protest. Will it lead to a spitroast and "teabagging day" by irate catamites outside Chick-a-Fil ?

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

    I am not a supporter of gay marriage, however I am not opposed to gay couples. The reason that I don't want gay marraige is because it opposes well over four thousand years of tradition and marraige has religious background, I would be just fine if they called it something else.

    September 9, 2012 at 11:41 am | Report abuse |
    • Jane

      The RIGhtS that gays get from being "married" bare legally based not based on reilgiom. Every person who tries to claim religious reasons for not approving gay marriage , without opposing everything else the bible is for or against (hint it's for slavery but against wearing 2 kinds of cloth at the same time) makes me even sicker

      September 9, 2012 at 11:52 am | Report abuse |
    • James

      Well then call it something else, it's not that hard. I would like to avoid further trampeling on a tradition my ancestors hold so high.

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

      In other words everytime who enjoys the rights of marriage, do so because of the legally binding portions of the act of getting married. So while all marriages are legal not all weddings are religious. Gays should be able to have a legal marriage and the wedding of their choice.

      September 9, 2012 at 12:02 pm | Report abuse |
    • James

      Yes, yes they do, just please call it something else besides the tradition my ancestors cherished.

      September 9, 2012 at 12:08 pm | Report abuse |
    • Fidgit


      Well then call it something else, it's not that hard. I would like to avoid further trampeling on a tradition my ancestors hold so high.

      Like stoning woman for adultery ?
      Sorry bucko, you dont "own" the word.

      The original definition of "marriage" was a contract
      between two parties.
      No mention of gender or god.

      Its "my" word, you cant have it.
      Pretty childish.

      September 9, 2012 at 12:21 pm | Report abuse |
    • James

      Im just sticking up for the traditions everyone else seems to be discarding, the cultures that are being destroyed by my generation, the languages, I want to protect a tradition that was such a joyous occaison. Obviously I don't own the word.

      September 9, 2012 at 12:25 pm | Report abuse |
    • sam stone

      james: can't you see that marriage equality strengthens, rather then weakens, marriage?

      September 9, 2012 at 1:21 pm | Report abuse |
  12. A Person

    First, to the players, the team owners and rational and compassionate Americans – Thank you!

    Your courage and bravery to stand up to bigotry, intolerance and dim-witted views say more about why America is still the greatest place to live on the planet. Whether it is from outside the borders or worse, inside this country, people need people like you to stand up and say "Enough is enough!"

    To those who espouse the views of intolerance, division and who try to take unlawful ownership of people's rights. Stop trying to defend your bigotry with twisted ideas, rationalized by your love of your god! Stop trying to defend your theft of the American dream! Stop trying to pretend that some people are favoured over others! Stop trying to steal America from the Americans! Your god is yours!... not mine! You are not the moral majority, you are not the right – simply the self-righteous! You do not own god!...you do not rightfully own America... and you do not own my mind, body nor soul!.... so STOP!"

    September 9, 2012 at 11:46 am | Report abuse |
  13. DiedrichKyrian


    I am glad you put a price tag on things, like equality. I am wondering as a human being, how can you deny which what is given to you *Freely*. Just because the quirk of your birth, you AUTOMATICALLY get this *right* for. Free.

    This speaks volumes of your character. Yes, I am questioning your humanity.

    September 9, 2012 at 11:52 am | Report abuse |
  14. DiedrichKyrian

    " four thousand years of tradition and marraige has religious background"

    James. Please read your history. Even today, the "traditional" man/wife is something relatively new. Please research other cultures.

    September 9, 2012 at 11:54 am | Report abuse |
    • James

      I apologize, I was off in timing, but it is still quite an old tradition. Plus, I have the decency not to snob up to other people's mistakes when they have opposing views.

      September 9, 2012 at 12:05 pm | Report abuse |
    • DiedrichKyrian


      THAT right there is the PROBLEM. it shouldnt be!!! Treating a HUMAN BEING! like how YOU would want to be treated SHOULDNT be an opposing view.

      The ONLY issue I have *EVER* heard for opposing gay marriage is : THE BIBLE. You know what? what about for those NOT CHRISTIAN. You are TRAMPLING over what SHOULD be a common sense basic human rights issue because of YOUR religion. The First GD Amendment specifically states " Congress shall make no laws establishing a religion" and "Freedom of Religion." Means while YOU get to practice yours. YOUR religious views and laws *do* NOT trample my rights as a U.S. Citizen *AND* Human Being!

      There are 5 Basic rights that ALL HUMAN BEINGS share
      1. Freedom of Speech
      2. Freedom of Religion
      3. Freedom for consenting adults to marry. (Now I will quantify for tax/estate/MedicalAdvocate; two people, as I am not a lawyer nor have I gone to tax law school).
      4. Right to Vote
      5. Right to Pursuit happiness.

      How *hard* is that to comprehend?

      September 9, 2012 at 12:15 pm | Report abuse |
    • James

      First of all, I am talking about protecting marraige as a tradition, so it has nothing to do with whether they are Christian or not. Second they have all those rights and I don't want to take them away. Have I used the bible to defend my stance even once? I am not attacking you, and I am only partially disagreeing with you.

      September 9, 2012 at 12:21 pm | Report abuse |
    • DiedrichKyrian


      Also what you're trying to hold onto and protect. WILL CHANGE. This is a fact of life. Languages, Culture, EVERYTHING changes.

      What is a fad today, tomorrow becomes tradition and outdated the following day.

      Everything evolves, changes, forms, melds, adapts, takes from one culture to another.

      Look at the Church of England. King Henry VIII wanted to divorce and marry another. So he went and formed the Church of England (Protestants) and now it's a viable Christian religion. Same with Lutheran.

      What you call dark and white meat, came from Victorian age NOT wanting to use Breast or Thigh.

      Once you realize how much human culture and the world changes, the more you realize that traditions might change and alter but basic human rights and just treating another human being AS a human being, that's what makes us, well human.

      September 9, 2012 at 12:37 pm | Report abuse |
  15. mnstrpc

    Public figures or not, football players have as much right to express an opinion as any other American. Regarding Mr. Burns' use of the word "inconceivable" in describing Ayanbadejo's perfectly acceptable decision to voice his opinion (controversial or not) I am reminded of one of my favorite lines from one of my favorite movies of all time – The Princess Bride. To wit – "You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means." LOL

    September 9, 2012 at 11:54 am | Report abuse |
    • Mitzi

      One of the best movies EVER, Buttercup!

      September 9, 2012 at 4:54 pm | Report abuse |
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