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.

Post by:
Filed under: Football • Politics • Pro football • Same-sex marriage • Sports
soundoff (768 Responses)
  1. j

    I wonder how the guys on the team will feel the next time this dude pats em on their bums, LOL!!

    September 9, 2012 at 1:55 pm | Report abuse |
    • DBVNYC

      I should think they would and should feel no dfferent than before. Just because someone has the courage to speak out for free speech and a freedom issue, does not make them any different than before. I think it takes a 'true man' to stand up for the rights of those who are treated less favorably. Men can choose to be destructive with their words or be positive. The world is changing, moving forward. I guess you choose to go backwards. Do yourself a favor, enlighten yourself some.

      September 9, 2012 at 2:13 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mitzi

      Where did he every say he himself was gay?

      September 9, 2012 at 5:05 pm | Report abuse |
    • Oz in OK

      j – what's the matter, you just jealous that no big burly dude wants to slap *your* butt?

      September 9, 2012 at 11:31 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Adam

    Where is the football player who will come out for traditional marriage? He's probably afraid he'll be canned.

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

      Excellent point, look at all the abuse Tebow is putting up with just for being a Christian.

      September 9, 2012 at 2:02 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dee1030

      Adam, why would someone be canned for supporting traditional marriage? If people could be fired for that then there would be millions of job openings in this country!

      September 9, 2012 at 2:12 pm | Report abuse |
    • DBVNYC

      And you speak so highly of traditional marriage as you see it. Straights, so far, have made a true mockery of this with the amount of divorces that take place. Do your research: marriage never was created or belonged to christians, muslims, jews or any other man created religion. It originally came from pagan practices. You groups turned it into being all about owing property namely 'women' in exchange for cows, horses, and camels. Women, have finally woken up and realized that macho men, just want control, to dominate, because they think they are smarter than them. Men need to get over themselves.

      September 9, 2012 at 2:20 pm | Report abuse |
    • mark

      that's because he's an idiot as well as a christian.

      September 9, 2012 at 2:48 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Buckshot

    It seems cnn haas a big problem with posting comments today.

    September 9, 2012 at 2:02 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Dorothy

    You are absolutely right Po Boy, Chick-fil-A has the same rights as the Klan, the Skin Heads, and the Neo- Nazis to preach hate and articulate their views. They will take their place in history with them as well.

    September 9, 2012 at 2:03 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dean

      And just what hate has Chik-fil-A preached?

      September 9, 2012 at 6:21 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Dee1030

    This is about par for Republicans who want to suppress votes and silence voices.

    September 9, 2012 at 2:06 pm | Report abuse |
    • psychologist/human

      I agree with Ayanbadejo, when one American loses their freedom of speech we all lose it. He has a right to express his opinion and as a gay person I appreciate it. What do you care who I love as long as they are a consenting adult (not a child!) unless of course you want to sleep with me?

      September 9, 2012 at 2:36 pm | Report abuse |
    • tom

      the age old statement i dont agree but ill defend his right to say it he has the same right to say it and its dem that say going the other way his hate speech not rep being a football player doesnt mean you cant talk

      September 9, 2012 at 3:15 pm | Report abuse |
    • ACertainflorentine

      This is no different than the Democrat mayor of Boston who said that chik-fil-a wouldn't be able to get permits because the owner is against gay marriage. (they're both wrong for suppressing free speech)

      September 9, 2012 at 3:24 pm | Report abuse |
    • FatCat301

      Emmett C. Burns is a Democrat. Do I have to call you an idiot now, or does it go without saying?

      September 9, 2012 at 3:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • Cephas

      @Dee1030 I am sure you would just as strongly support free speech if it were a pro-life message. It's a rhetorical question.

      September 9, 2012 at 3:43 pm | Report abuse |
    • James

      this particular low-life is a Democrat. what does crow taste like anyway?

      September 9, 2012 at 3:48 pm | Report abuse |
    • Cedar Rapids

      "This is no different than the Democrat mayor of Boston who said that chik-fil-a wouldn't be able to get permits because the owner is against gay marriage"

      actually it is. I dont recall the mayor writing to anyone asking them to stop chik-fil-a from expressing an opinion on the matter.

      September 9, 2012 at 4:10 pm | Report abuse |
    • eagleslou123

      Here is how smart you Democrats are emmett C Burns is a DEMOCRAT!!!!!

      September 9, 2012 at 4:25 pm | Report abuse |
    • Hey there

      He's a Democrat. You should do a little research so you don't put your foot in your mouth.

      September 9, 2012 at 4:37 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Football Fan

    Ayanbadejo is a courageous man and I applaud him for speaking his mind. It's time for people to put their fears and prejudice aside and people live their lives with the partner they choose and live in peace. For a minister to be preaching hate and bigotry is as wrong as it gets. Minister Burns should be ashamed of himself and ask God he can atone for hateful speech.

    September 9, 2012 at 2:18 pm | Report abuse |
  7. mack

    Hoaah when was the last time you saw a leftist lynch mob? Organized religion is just one more way to try and control the masses. Look to whom ordered the writing of the Bible and why. Ignorance like yours is why politicians like this have a place in our government. Keep making statements and judgements from ignorance and we will have here in the US as the middle east have extremist running the oppressed and hungry.

    September 9, 2012 at 2:23 pm | Report abuse |
    • VoiceOf Truth

      What are you babbling about? This story is about Burns working to silence someone's freedom of speech. Not the Bible. Shows how bigoted you are against the Bible.

      September 9, 2012 at 3:24 pm | Report abuse |
    • Larry

      Burns is also a minister. His anti-gay agenda comes from his religious belief (based on the Bible) so yes, it is about religion

      September 9, 2012 at 4:43 pm | Report abuse |
    • Adam Williamson

      When was the last time you saw a leftist lynch mob? Ask a Romanov. Or any one of several million Chinese, circa the 1960s...

      September 9, 2012 at 5:55 pm | Report abuse |
    • Numskullduggery

      If you can't figure out the difference between the dems and comminism, you need to severly revisit a HS Government class.....

      September 9, 2012 at 6:06 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Kajal

    Where was Emmett C Burns Jr all the time that Tim Tebow has been running around opposing the right of a woman to her own body by opposing her right to terminate a pregnancy?
    Talk about hypocrisy and opportunism....

    September 9, 2012 at 2:26 pm | Report abuse |
    • Krush

      What about the rights of the baby? It's a 50/50 chance the baby is a she! Abortion is just another misogynistic practice that gets women to kill other women before they grow up.

      September 9, 2012 at 2:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • ChildOfCorn

      @Krush: lol! Allowing women access to legal abortion is misogynistic! That's a good one!

      (You were being intentionally funny, right? Because otherwise... nah, no one can be that stupid. Funny stuff!)

      September 9, 2012 at 3:54 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Krush

    It's really a shame that Ayanbadejo thinks anybody gives a rat's posterior about his political opinions. Shut up and get back to work. Nobody is paying Ayanbadejo to be a politician.

    September 9, 2012 at 2:30 pm | Report abuse |
    • tallulah13

      I suspect more people care about his opinion than care about yours, Krush.

      September 9, 2012 at 2:55 pm | Report abuse |
    • sam stone

      If no one cared about his opinion, why do we have all this hubub?

      September 9, 2012 at 3:07 pm | Report abuse |
    • GoRavens

      you wouldn't have posted anything you don't care!

      September 9, 2012 at 4:38 pm | Report abuse |
    • GoRavens

      you wouldn't have posted anything if you don't care!

      September 9, 2012 at 4:40 pm | Report abuse |
  10. David Godfrey

    I just became a Baltimore Ravens fan...and a major fan of Ayanbadejo. Speaking out on an issue like this takes guts, especially as an NFL player. Ayanbadejo realizes, as everyone in America should, that to gay people getting married will never affect the lives of the people who oppose it so much. Thank you Ayanbadejo!

    September 9, 2012 at 3:01 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jason

      Wow, This guy is a hero for his coming out about his amoral views, but Tim Tebow is constantly raked over the coals by the liberal media for his views. The libs don't really support free speach. They only support speach they approve of. But I guess we all already knew that. That is called hyprocracy and you (libs) are "guilty as sin" (pun intended).

      September 9, 2012 at 8:19 pm | Report abuse |
    • Oz in OK

      @Jason – *yawn* More nonsense from the 'Ooooh I'm sch a victiiiiiim!' crowd. Tebow has the FREEDOM OF SPEECH to say anything he wants – and any American has the right to support or criticize his views. Of course, an elected official using his office to suppress that freedom of speech doesn't even register with you, does it?

      September 9, 2012 at 11:25 pm | Report abuse |
    • sam stone

      jason: it is Burns who is attempting to silence those he disagrees with

      September 10, 2012 at 6:58 am | Report abuse |
  11. snowboarder

    and somehow people don't consider religion a negative influence on society.

    religion is the foremost reason in history for the lost of individual rights.

    September 9, 2012 at 3:08 pm | Report abuse |
    • tarheel1110

      You are absolutely correct!

      September 9, 2012 at 7:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • dogmandg

      Wrong. Religion by itself has been relatively harmless. The bad things happen when you mix government and religion. Over the centuries, governments have used religion as a means to gain power and exert more control. And its still happening today. That's what gives religion a bad rep.

      But if you just take the religion itself, things look very different. For example, Jesus was dead set against the government of his day, and so was Martin Luther.

      As for being gay, the Bible puts that on par with eating shrimp, or touching the skin of a pig (e.g. a football). And again, this part of the Bible came from when there was no separation of church and state. But you don't hear American politicians calling people an abomination for eating shellfish or playing football, even though its right there in the Bible. That would never help them gain power.

      September 9, 2012 at 8:00 pm | Report abuse |
  12. ronjayaz

    The guy's an American first and a footballer second. Deal with it!

    September 9, 2012 at 3:20 pm | Report abuse |
  13. ronjayaz

    Censored again! by Fascist CNN! See my Facebook.

    September 9, 2012 at 3:22 pm | Report abuse |
    • Caliliving

      Wow they sensor your hate language, go figure

      September 9, 2012 at 4:18 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Marla

    I don't like football, but I now support this player and the others who are supporting him.
    Young people who look up to athletes need to see more good examples like him.

    September 9, 2012 at 3:37 pm | Report abuse |
  15. jackhudson

    I disagree strongly with the views of both football players, but strongly support their right to express their opinions about gay marriage the same way I support Chik-fil-A's President Dan Cathy's right to speak out about the same issue.

    September 9, 2012 at 3:39 pm | Report abuse |
    • pete

      dude, srsly? Dan Cathy was never under fire for speaking his mind. He was criticized for funding hate groups, that exist only to deny other Americans equal protection under law. That is a big, BIG, difference. And one that has NOTHING to do w/ Freedom of Speech.

      September 9, 2012 at 7:38 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dark Poet

      Pete..... so why do people LOVE AL GORE? He supports the Westboro Baptist Cult...... yet no public out-cry against him! Oh that's right..... he has that (D) by his name........

      September 9, 2012 at 7:50 pm | Report abuse |
    • Kat

      Really, Dark? Can you give me a citation for the source you got that from? Thank you.

      September 9, 2012 at 7:54 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mango

      More like Westboro supported Al Gore . It is well known that Phelps is a democrat. So? In any case, there are alot of people that don't support gay marriage. It isn't a Dem or GOP thing. It does NOT give them the right to suppress free speech, however.

      September 9, 2012 at 8:00 pm | Report abuse |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19