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. Eric

    I think it is great these guys made a stand for equality and told that idiot politician where to go. Not one argument against gay folks below is valid nor without bigotry. Just let them marry, it does nothing to affect your life.

    September 9, 2012 at 12:00 pm | Report abuse |
  2. DiedrichKyrian

    James:

    So you like the tradition of slavery as well that your ancestors held so high?

    September 9, 2012 at 12:01 pm | Report abuse |
  3. PaigeN

    I don't agree with Ayanbadejo's opinion but he has the right to express it whether he's a football player, a pastor or "joe schmoe" on the street.

    Apparently it's more acceptable to be a wife beater, a drug dealer/user, a shooter or a dog-fighter than it is to stand up for one's beliefs.

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

      Bigotry is not a belief.

      September 9, 2012 at 1:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • sam stone

      you put drug users in with wife beaters, paige? that is pretty moronic

      September 9, 2012 at 1:43 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Dorothy

    Thank God that people are finally recognizing the need for equality for all......and for calling to task "lawmakers" who try to suppress to voice of the people.

    September 9, 2012 at 12:22 pm | Report abuse |
    • Casey

      Well said!

      September 9, 2012 at 12:26 pm | Report abuse |
  5. growtheFup

    Hmm..them I would also expect this state lawmaker and pastor to send the same letter to Tebow to stop preaching about God during his time off the field and performing the sign of the cross during field play because after all, Tebow is also stepping into a controversial divide that is trying to sway public opinion one way or the other. Can't have it both ways now!

    September 9, 2012 at 12:26 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dorothy

      So true!

      September 9, 2012 at 1:40 pm | Report abuse |
    • VoiceOf Truth

      Nah, Tebow is fine, and so is this NFL player. Both have freedom of speech

      September 9, 2012 at 3:31 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Craig & Joe.

    Hey! Where are Mike Huckabee and Sarah Palin now? Shouldn’t they be declaring a “Ravens Appreciation Day” for standing up to the Freedom of Speech? Or do politicians only defend the Freedom of Speech when it applies to their personal beliefs and agenda? Isn’t Freedom of Speech the same no matter what? So much for their speech about protecting the first amendment.

    September 9, 2012 at 12:36 pm | Report abuse |
    • Hooah

      Perhaps they aren't speaking up because they do not need to. Last time I checked I did not see anyone goose-stepping around Ayanbadejo trying to have him driven out of town and boycotted. Nor is there a loud Leftist lynnch mob calling Ayanbadejo vicious nasty names. Neither are there large groups of degenerates (pro deviants) trying to violate the law of the land by denying him the right to play football, unlike what Mr. Cathy experienced when he expressed HIS right to free speech which in turn lead to Mike Huckabee and Sarah Palin, and many others, standing up for HIS rights that the fascist Left tried to deny him.
      One politician over reacting to pro gay comments from a football player hardly garners the attention generated by fascists like Rob Emanuel and the thousands of deviants who tried to lyynch Chic-Fil-A's CEO Cathy for his pro family/ Pro God/ Anti deviant comment.
      Come on "Craig & Joe", exercise a little common sense!

      September 9, 2012 at 1:44 pm | Report abuse |
    • Hooah

      Ummm, this happened just yesterday, give it some time sparky. I do not agree with gay being normal and acceptable but I agree with Ayanbadejo's right to free speech...and so do all those who supported Chic-Fil-A's Dan Cathy's right to free speech.

      September 9, 2012 at 1:48 pm | Report abuse |
    • VoiceOf Truth

      If the mainstream media were eager to support free speech for Christians, then they would celebrate his freedom of speech as much as they do for other Christians. But the media has been pretty active at silencing Christians compared to the coverage they give to anti-Christians.

      September 9, 2012 at 3:35 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Purp (@PurpAv)

    Emmett C. Burns Jr. is Democrat. Why is he trying to suppress free speech?

    September 9, 2012 at 12:37 pm | Report abuse |
    • NoodleHat

      You missed the important part... Democrat, Republican, Independent... doesn't matter when you see minister attached. Religion warps the mind of anyone regardless of their political affiliation. If you want to see real progress, get people to understand that their fairy tale books about the sky fairy are not very good guides to use for how to live. This is true across all religions.

      September 9, 2012 at 12:52 pm | Report abuse |
    • banasy©

      It was the Minister side of him that wrote that letter...

      September 9, 2012 at 1:00 pm | Report abuse |
    • Hooah

      Because Democrats have a track record of trying to deny people their freedom of speech. Look at the mass fascist reaction by Democrats like Rob Emanuel when he tried to ban Chic-Fil-A for their pro-family/anti-deviant beliefs.

      September 9, 2012 at 1:50 pm | Report abuse |
    • VoiceOf Truth

      NoodleHat: What are you babbling about? Stop blaspheming. No one wants to abandon faith in Jesus Christ to worship your hollow arrogance. Nor do we want to embrace the emptiness of Agnostic Reason or Atheism.

      September 9, 2012 at 3:38 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mitzi

      His name is RAHM Emmanual...if you're going to hold up a public figure to ridicule, get it right, otherwise you just look uniformed.

      September 9, 2012 at 5:00 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Jeff Cox

    It used to be that things like music, movies and sports were a great distraction ... an escape from the conflicts of everyday life. I recognize not only the celebrities right to express their viewpoints but the good that can potentially come from their taking advantage of the soapbox they're given by way of their fame. And it's not just a recent phenomenon. I think the first one of which I was aware were Smith and Carlos on the medal stand in Mexico City in 1968.

    But I'm tired of all the controversy. I'm worn down from it all. It's a shame that we haven't reached a point where we can't let people live a life of peace because we feel irrationally threatened by someone else's freedom. I know that's not going to happen in my lifetime. I can only hope it happens in my kids' lifetime so that he can enjoy a simply Sunday afternoon watching a sporting event without being reminded of hate and bigotry.

    September 9, 2012 at 12:41 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Susie

    That is just wrong, politicians from any side have no right to try to shut up a citizen of this country.

    September 9, 2012 at 12:53 pm | Report abuse |
    • Hooah

      Good point Susie!

      September 9, 2012 at 1:51 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Iowan

    Come on now. We're told to sit down and relax after a corporation states their side on this issue, because that's their right. But this "employee" is out of line for using his freedom of speech? Hypocrisy at its finest.

    September 9, 2012 at 1:19 pm | Report abuse |
    • Hooah

      Hypocrisy????? Here is a cut and paste from my previous quote to another person like you who made a similar "lame" comment. Perhaps they aren't speaking up because they do not need to. Last time I checked I did not see anyone goose-stepping around Ayanbadejo trying to have him driven out of town and boycotted. Nor is there a loud Leftist lynnch mob calling Ayanbadejo vicious nasty names. Neither are there large groups of degenerates (pro deviants) trying to violate the law of the land by denying him the right to play football, unlike what Mr. Cathy experienced when he expressed HIS right to free speech which in turn lead to Mike Huckabee and Sarah Palin, and many others, standing up for HIS rights that the fascist Left tried to deny him.
      One politician over reacting to pro gay comments from a football player hardly garners the attention generated by fascists like Rob Emanuel and the thousands of deviants who tried to lyynch Chic-Fil-A's CEO Cathy for his pro family/ Pro God/ Anti deviant comment.
      Come on "Iowan" exercise a little common sense!
      BTW, this incident just happened, give it some time for others to point out that it is a freedom of speech issue. It's underhanded of you to pull out the hypocrisy/card just yet.

      September 9, 2012 at 1:57 pm | Report abuse |
    • Iowan

      No, we just have a politician writing to the team's owner telling them to keep their player in line. Yes, there were a lot of protests against Chik-Fil-A. Yet, there were also A LOT of people saying it was their right to take a stance on the issue (which it is) and for people to back off. That's where the hypocrisy is. A politician has no right to try and silence a person's free speech, whether they're an NFL player, celebrity or whatever. And that is common sense...

      September 9, 2012 at 2:11 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mitzi

      Hooah: RAHM Emmanuel. RAHM. Okay?

      September 9, 2012 at 5:02 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Hooah

    Actually "Nother-son-"O-Ursus", Cathy's pro marriage/pro family/anti gay comments resulted in a huge turnout of support for Chic-Fil-A, both moral and financial, that dwarfed all the negative, and might I say fascist, consequences from the Left. Additionally they had their best financial day ever on 1 August 2012 that was declared Chic-Fil-A Day to show support for his Christian views and freedom of speech, and YES "Nother-son-"O-Ursus", Ayanbadejo deserves freedom of speech as well.
    I hardly believe that he would have been fired from Chic-Fil-A had it been a publicly traded company considering the huge profits that resulted and continue to result.
    Additionally, your accusation that Cathy is a bigot for rejecting your deviance is a complete and ridiculous failure of common sense on your part.

    September 9, 2012 at 1:19 pm | Report abuse |
    • mark

      You suck.

      September 9, 2012 at 2:46 pm | Report abuse |
    • tallulah13

      Your usage of the word "deviance" is a complete and ridiculous failure of common sense on your part. But of course, by defending Cathy's bigotry, you simply exposed yourself as a fellow bigot.

      September 9, 2012 at 2:57 pm | Report abuse |
  12. shane4756

    I don't think it would be right for a player to marry an official because there might be a conflict of interest, but all else I would be OK with. We all know that most men watch football to see other men in tight clothing pat each other on the backside. I know I get excited.

    September 9, 2012 at 1:23 pm | Report abuse |
  13. scruffy1

    Why do all those people who vigorously protest government interference into their lives, why are these people the first to invite the government into their bed rooms, into their intimacies, into their family decisions-attempt to position a police officer next to our froint door to insure their perception of morality?

    September 9, 2012 at 1:24 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Po Boy

    You can't have it both ways either. the Chik FIla CEO has the same right to freedom of speech as everyone. Just because he said something you disagree with, does not mean that he can't or shouldn't say it.

    September 9, 2012 at 1:26 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Joel

    Gay Americans have been paying, with their taxes, for straight-marriage-related benefits, while at the same time being denied, by law, those same benefits. Look at the first Iraq invasion. I never saw so many people run to the altar (where the male of the couple was about to be called off). Why? Because if he came back in a body bag and they weren't married, wifey wouldn't get a government check and continued benefits paid for in part by, you guessed it, gay Americans. If straights can use marriage as a life insurance policy, then let gays do the same. After all, they paid into that.

    September 9, 2012 at 1:27 pm | Report abuse |
    • Hooah

      Gay is deviant, straight is normal. Even nature screams bs when it comes to people trying to pass-
      off gay as being morally acceptable.

      September 9, 2012 at 2:01 pm | Report abuse |
    • Iowan

      Hooah, just because you don't understand something doesn't mean you can restrict rights. Come on now; let's exercise a little common sense.

      September 9, 2012 at 2:19 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mitzi

      Hooah, you'd better do a little research into the animal world before you pull that argument out again. Plenty of your so-called "deviant" behavior exists in nature.

      September 9, 2012 at 5:04 pm | Report abuse |
    • Oz in OK

      Hooah – you don't have the slightest idea what 'natural' means, do you?

      September 9, 2012 at 11:30 pm | Report abuse |
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