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. Caliliving

    "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."

    Ordered? LOL what world do you live in dude

    September 9, 2012 at 4:16 pm | Report abuse |
    • CR from CA

      The religious right lives in a world where free speech means you are free to agree with their views, otherwise, you are supposed to keep your mouth shut. Separation of church and state should be a two-way street, and if churches want to get into politics, they can start paying taxes for the privilege like the rest of us.

      September 9, 2012 at 7:25 pm | Report abuse |
    • Richard

      If they are going to block him from his views, then they need to ban Tebow from spouting religious views. I'm glad some players are supporting everyone & not pandering to personal religious views. Growing up christian we are told not to judge. If your judging people that are gay or non-christian, then how can you say your following christian views. Though shall not judge they fellow man, only GOD has that right. Let all people share their views & maybe we will all start to think again & not insult god by using his book to attack any group.

      September 9, 2012 at 7:50 pm | Report abuse |
  2. little mister©

    Why shouldn't gay people be allowed to marry. I am a right wing Republican but do believe it is a human right.

    September 9, 2012 at 4:53 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mitzi

      That's the sanest thing I have ever heard you say.

      September 9, 2012 at 5:09 pm | Report abuse |
    • doughnuts

      And I support the right of everyone who says that Dan Cathy is a bigotted jerk, and that everyone who actually cares about civil rights should boycot his company.

      September 9, 2012 at 5:39 pm | Report abuse |
    • sam stone

      the supreme court in a 1967 ruling on Loving vs. Virginia that marriage is a civil right.

      September 10, 2012 at 7:01 am | Report abuse |
  3. GuyinVA

    Mr. Ayanbadejo is absolutely justified in speaking his mind, whether anyone agrees with him or not. Also, it's good to see a professional athlete state that his job is NOT who he is. However, Mr. Kluwe's response was unfortunate. He states that "the swearing is there for a reason." Of course it is. It's there because the writer lacks the self control and the intellect to do any better.

    September 9, 2012 at 5:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • DA BEARS

      donughts, I am LMAO at your last statement.

      September 9, 2012 at 5:53 pm | Report abuse |

    Da Bears just beat Indianapolis. DA BEARS!

    September 9, 2012 at 5:50 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Tom

    I'm a lifelong Redskins fan, but I'm happy to root for the Ravens, now, too!

    September 9, 2012 at 5:55 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Paul Cooper

    Dear Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI,

    I am appalled that you allow someone who plays for your team to express such bigoted views as those expressed by Emmett C. Burns, Jr. He disgraces the entire concept of Christianity with his hatred toward his neighbors and the foundation of American society with his stance that others should be denied the freedom to speak that he so clearly enjoys using to demean those unlike him. Please silence him at once. He undermines the mission of the church of the message of Christ with his vitriol, and he must not be allowed to speak. Make him understand that his job is to spread the savior's message of peace and love, not to do the devil's work.

    September 9, 2012 at 6:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mitzi

      Dear Paul Cooper:
      Emmett Burns isn't the player on the Ravens. He is the State Rep who wants to quash the player's free speech.

      September 9, 2012 at 6:45 pm | Report abuse |
    • CaLViNaLViN

      Dear Mitzi:
      He was referring to him being a Christian, not a football player.. Please read posts before you reply to them!

      September 9, 2012 at 7:07 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mitzi

      Gotcha. His wording confused me, as I don't think of faith as "playing".

      September 9, 2012 at 7:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • richard

      Note the first sentence he states someone who plays for your team, so yes he thought burns was on the team

      September 9, 2012 at 7:55 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Owl Creek Observer

    In this country, you're free to say pretty much anything on any subject. There are exceptions, as we all know, but generally you're free to throw your opinions out there. However, you also must accept the fact that somebody will almost always disagree with your point of view. If you're a public figure, whether a politician, an actor who earns millions pretending to be something you're not, or someone who earns millions playing a kids' game, you must understand that you may lose some support in the process of exercising your freedom. Think Dixie Chicks. In this case, Mr. Ayanbadejo is a clueless doofus for jeopardizing his career, as is Mr. Burns for trying to shut him up. Looks like a tie to me.

    September 9, 2012 at 7:28 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mango

      If one defines themselves purely by dollars, your point makes sense. If one defines thenselves by what it is to be a free human who wishes others to have the same equality no matter what gender they prefer, no.

      September 9, 2012 at 8:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • K Dub

      How exactly is Mr. Ayanbadejo jeopardizing his career? He is a football player, and a damn good one. No one is going to cut him because of his remarks. He has shown far more class and maturity than either Burns or Kluwe have.

      September 9, 2012 at 10:05 pm | Report abuse |
  8. TAK

    And republicans have the nerve to pretend that they're the ones that support freedom?

    September 9, 2012 at 8:00 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jim

      If that's your criteria then obviously they do. Burns is a Democrat...

      September 9, 2012 at 8:27 pm | Report abuse |
  9. I

    Kluwe didn't express it strongly enough!

    September 9, 2012 at 8:06 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Yoda

    I'm proud of the Raven management and proud of the NFL for the way they handled this. And Kluwe's language set exactly the right tone. We need more of that.

    September 9, 2012 at 8:34 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jim

      I'm proud to see intelligence and humanity in a sport generally associated with the opposite. This is a great victory for human progression toward freedom from oppression. Ayanbadejo, Woodley, Kluwe, and Ravens management have set a great example for exactly what freedoms we're guaranteed as Americans – freedoms that should be a right of every person on this planet.

      September 9, 2012 at 11:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • Salarika

      Amen (hee-hee).

      September 10, 2012 at 3:07 am | Report abuse |
  11. Derek

    To Jason: Let's address the fact that you have serious issues with spelling. Unless you are 12 years old, I can't take someone as uneducated as you seriously.

    September 9, 2012 at 8:38 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jon

      Derek, there are many people who received poor educations that are still very intelligent people. An education doesn't make someone smart.

      September 10, 2012 at 1:53 pm | Report abuse |
  12. t3chn0ph0b3

    Check out deadspin .com for the original letter with swears intact. It's worth the trip.

    I read it there first and then this article broke. It's just too bad that it had to break in this particular way so that people would read the edited version first. The original is an instant classic.

    September 9, 2012 at 8:54 pm | Report abuse |
    • Yoda

      I, too, read the original first. Instant classic is right. Too damn bad the big press won't print it in it's entirety. It is a work of art.

      September 9, 2012 at 9:08 pm | Report abuse |
    • banasy©

      Oh, I read the original, and I laughed so hard, I was crying.
      It is *well* worth looking at, with one caveat: people who are wound a bit tightly will not get the message; they won't be able to get past some of the launguage.

      September 9, 2012 at 9:08 pm | Report abuse |
    • sam stone

      great letter

      September 10, 2012 at 6:34 am | Report abuse |
  13. sonnie3

    If only the libs would find salvation in the Good Lord Almight, we would not be promoteding a sin full life style. It is to each his own and in the end ALL will Harvest what they Plant. As for me and my house we will serve the Lord and stay away from what he has deemed sinfull.

    September 9, 2012 at 9:00 pm | Report abuse |
    • t3chn0ph0b3

      You write like a youth pastor. You're a youth pastor, right? If so, you're complicit in child abuse. Stop forcing your deviant fundamentalist views on kids. Sicko.

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

      blah, blah, blah. Bronze age myths are meaningless.

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

      You should stop eating shrimp and wearing clothes of different cloth, otherwise you will be stoned to death. Oh, and don't forget that you need to sell your daughters into slavery, and pick up a couple of Canadians as slaves while you are at it.

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

      No shrimp or bacon for you. Or cotton-poly blends.

      September 9, 2012 at 9:49 pm | Report abuse |
    • banasy©

      Plenty of gay Christians around.
      Thought you should know.

      September 9, 2012 at 10:28 pm | Report abuse |
    • sam stone

      sonnie: good for you. you and your family can stay on your knees like good fvcking slaves.

      September 10, 2012 at 6:37 am | Report abuse |
    • Rascal Rabble

      do not be intimidated by these lgtb bullies and bigotry...they want to remove god from goverment and redefine the building block of society by redefining marriage, also want to create bypass the will of the people and congress through illicit policies and closet judges rulings and czar assignments...you and president or!f!ces will not prevail...bunch of hateful evil satanic treasoners...

      September 10, 2012 at 7:40 am | Report abuse |
    • sam stone

      bigotry? it you and sonnie boy here who want to deny people their civil rights.

      September 10, 2012 at 8:24 am | Report abuse |
  14. SherryF

    Good for him! He is allowed to express his personal viewpoint while not "on the job", unlike what that Tebow guys has done. And how incredibly idiotic of the Congressman; did he really think it would work? Or that the ridiculous wouldn't be released?

    What nerve to include the last sentence....."Please give me your immediate response"......because I'm sure they don't have anything more important to worry about than a nutjob preacher in political office. /sarcasm over/

    September 9, 2012 at 9:00 pm | Report abuse |
  15. dave

    Read Kluwe's awesome and eloquently profane response, well worth the time.

    September 9, 2012 at 9:07 pm | Report abuse |
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