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. dave

    Tebow isn't enlighten about anything, creationists have nothing to offer.

    September 9, 2012 at 9:08 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Firefly

    The Liberal Media also has freedom of speech to support whomever they want. That's part of freedom of speech. If they don't support Tim Tebow then they don't have to. That's the part of freedom of speech you don't get.

    September 9, 2012 at 9:17 pm | Report abuse |
  3. BruceB

    I support Chris and all who stand up against bigotry. Burns should know better, even better yet, he should be recalled. Bigotry has no place in any legislator's agenda. We need more of Chris and zero of Burns.

    September 9, 2012 at 9:22 pm | Report abuse |
  4. RBSG

    I think Ayanbadejo and Kluwe both rock. While Burns is welcome to his opinion, the idea that he would use his position of influence to coerce anyone to withhold their own right to free speech is repugnant and morally reprehensible. I hope the voters do not give him another term.

    September 9, 2012 at 9:29 pm | Report abuse |
  5. banasy©

    If some State rep had written to the Jets organization asking that Tebow be ordered to refrain from crossing himself and falling to his knees while playing football, the conservative media would be calling for that representative's head on a pike, Firefly.
    You know it, and I know it.

    September 9, 2012 at 9:54 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Hillcreter

    You sound like just another whiny loser.

    September 9, 2012 at 9:59 pm | Report abuse |
  7. banasy©

    Who are you addressing, Hillcreter?

    September 9, 2012 at 10:04 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Dorothy

    So people are commenting about Tebow. It is so interesting that people actually believe that God would favor one football team over another. The signs of the cross and the pious genuflections when somebody scores in football....or even better yet....one somebody beats the c r a p out of somebody in the televised fights is simply beyond the beyond.

    Then others call Ayanbadejo's stance "amoral." So, exactly what part is the "amoral" part? The part where two people love one another? Or maybe the part where they commit to live in a monogamous, committed relationship? Hmmm.....that doesn't sound right. Could it be the part where they adopt children that have been abandoned or neglected by their biological parents? That doesn't seem so bad either....actually it sounds kind-of nice. Maybe it's the part where they want to serve their country in the military? Wow.....that doesn't seem so bad either.

    Maybe we need to look at the values of the religious right to figure out where the gays are amoral. Let's see....the religious right are protecting their pastors from charges of illicit se x ual activity.....does that put morality in a better light? No? Well, could it be all the money the televangelist convince poor little old ladies to give them? Hmmm....that doesn't seem all that moral. Maybe its the court cases that try to protect all their worldly assets from lawsuits and taxes? Geez....that doesn't seem so spiritual either.

    For some reason, the gays and those who support them seem to be the more morally sound when compared to those who condemn them.

    September 9, 2012 at 10:15 pm | Report abuse |
    • banasy©

      A very well thought-out post, beautifully stated.
      Somehow, I don't think God would give his stamp of approval on the activities that you just illustrated above.
      In fact, I am almost positive He wouldn't.

      September 9, 2012 at 11:05 pm | Report abuse |
    • George

      Very good

      September 10, 2012 at 8:50 am | Report abuse |
  9. Alexandria Townsend

    I simply cannot understand how these "minister" types can continue hating equal rights for people who are different. These so-called "Christians" are the biggest judges of all and isn't that ALSO a "sin"? Hate and ignorance should have no place in our modern society where lawmakers are concerned.

    September 9, 2012 at 10:50 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Papa D

    I know mostly libs and don't know of any that would take Tebow's freedom of speech away! But they also support the right of those who say that Tebow is ignorant and an idiot!

    September 9, 2012 at 10:56 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Smiley

    Everyone has an opinion. In America, you have the right to express it. Let it go. Does it really affect you...what other people do? Let it go and enjoy the sunset.

    September 9, 2012 at 11:13 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Topper

    Saddens me people are considered bigots for having views opposite the gay propaganda machine...

    September 9, 2012 at 11:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • Oz in OK

      Why don't you try 'walking a mile' in the shoes of a Gay or Lesbian citizen of this country and find out how much discrimination, bigotry and willful ignorance we have to deal with on a daily basis? Oh yeah that's right – even though it's a Biblical mandate (from Jesus no less) it's easier just to ignore that part of his teachings.

      September 9, 2012 at 11:37 pm | Report abuse |
    • banasy©

      It wasn't that Burns didn't agree with Ayanbadejo's view; his biggest faux pas was writing to the Raven's management to get him to *stop* expressing the view he disagreed with.
      He overstepped his boundaries as a state rep in trying to suppress Ayanbadejo's freedom of speech, and *that* is what the issue is, not what the speech was about.
      And for that, Burns is a hypocrite, in that he *is* a State representative, for suppressing one of the tenets of the first amendment makes him unfit to *be* a representative.

      September 10, 2012 at 12:01 am | Report abuse |
    • sam stone

      No, Topper....they are bigots for wanting to restrict others' civil rights.

      September 10, 2012 at 6:42 am | Report abuse |
    • sam stone

      Topper....the people who wanted to deny whites the right to marry blacks would certainly agree with you...

      "Hey, Bubba, them uppity n1gras are calling us bigots...they's after our white wimmmens, I tell you"

      September 10, 2012 at 8:30 am | Report abuse |
  13. Dave

    Way to Go...STAND UP to Bigots and their backward, brainwashed antiquated way of thinking... there's been enough bigotry and hatred throughout the past...it's time for social change and modern values in the Great US of A!

    September 10, 2012 at 12:07 am | Report abuse |
  14. Christi

    I am in total support of Mr. Ayanbadejo's support of this matter. Being a lesbian woman in the very conservative state of Wyoming I appreciate the support shared by NFL players. Mr. Burns' remarks were quite repulsive. Even though I am in a conservative state I am a registered Democrat and makes Mr. Burns' comment even worse. He needs to wake up and see past his little box he's living in. Thank you again to Mr. Ayanbadejo and Mr. Kluwe for your support. I'm not a fan of either of their teams but am now a fan of theirs.

    September 10, 2012 at 8:46 am | Report abuse |
  15. Jean

    In listening to the round table discussion this morning regarding the support of gay "marriage" I am nonplussed by the idea that acceptance of gays "marrying" will not effect anyone. Already in New York teachers are being"trained" how to handle little children's questions because they will begin this radical change of concept. It IS a religious issue as all of recorded history has assumed marriage between man and woman based on the natural order. The problem is not about who loves who. It is not about man first. It is about religious principles, even common sense principles, that have guided our history and many others, for centuries. This is not hateful, but common sense. Just think about it!

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

      You misunderstand. The marriage equality debate is about equality under the LAW – has nothing to do with religion.

      September 10, 2012 at 9:20 am | Report abuse |
    • Andy

      Actually, the bible forbids divorce, but religions conveniently side step that one.

      September 10, 2012 at 9:33 am | Report abuse |
    • TexAnne

      In all actuality marraige is and always has been a legal contract. Religion has nothing to do with it other than the superfluous ceremony surronding the contract.

      September 10, 2012 at 9:37 am | Report abuse |
    • sam stone

      The Supreme Court, in Loving vs. Virginia (1967), declare marriage to be a civil right. To license marriage for straight people but not gays appears to violate the 14th amendment. Religious ceremony has NOTHING to do with equal rights

      September 10, 2012 at 10:15 am | Report abuse |
    • sam stone

      Also, Jean, you did not mention how two people of the same gender affects anyone

      September 10, 2012 at 10:20 am | Report abuse |
    • sam stone

      "how two people of the same gender marrying each other...." was how it was supposed to read

      September 10, 2012 at 10:21 am | Report abuse |
    • anthony

      ok well if it is the natural order of things, then why is the gay population always at 10%? We are natural to nature. the latest evidence are the Gay penguines. to deny the equality of marriage under the LAW and EYES OF THE STATE, has nothing to do with religion, if a rabbi, pastor, priest, Imam, wicca, non-dinominational, or who ever, wants to marry someone in their religion that is for the congregation to deside. HOWEVER, it is un-american to deny people NATURAL RIGHTS based off of illogical, religous belief. the Government has a separation of Church and State. No one is asking for the church to see this marriage only the state.

      September 10, 2012 at 10:39 am | Report abuse |
    • Skeet


      If you want to renounce your human-ness and become a penguin, go right ahead.

      September 10, 2012 at 12:40 pm | Report abuse |
    • sam stone

      Come on, Jean....tell us specifically how two people of the same gender marrying each other effects you.

      September 10, 2012 at 1:24 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jon

      Yes, Jean...I have thought about it quite often in my 36 years of life. That is why I am a non-religious person today.

      September 10, 2012 at 1:45 pm | Report abuse |
    • chipndale

      If Chik fil A can voice their opinion on the matter, so can he. You can't have it both ways. Quit the knuckle dragging and evolve already.

      September 10, 2012 at 2:13 pm | Report abuse |
    • Equality

      Common sense would have people treating everyone with equality, not singling out people who are different and berating them for being so

      September 10, 2012 at 2:36 pm | Report abuse |
    • KVN

      I can't believe this "issue" is still being discussed!!! The fact of the matter is, regardless of your religious beliefs, the laws of this country are SEPARATE from any church. Telling two adults they can not marry because you don't like it or believe it to be okay, think it is not "normal" or whatever reason you come up with is discriminatory. Period.

      September 10, 2012 at 2:39 pm | Report abuse |
    • sam stone

      Apparently, Jean does not have the ability to stand up for her statement. Just bloviates and runs. Not an unusual characteristic among the pious set

      September 11, 2012 at 4:26 am | Report abuse |
    • sam stone

      vulpes: distinguishing right from wrong? how is violating someone's civil rights a good thing?

      September 12, 2012 at 6:01 am | Report abuse |
    • sam stone

      apparently Jean and Vulpes are cut from the same cloth.

      September 12, 2012 at 3:49 pm | Report abuse |
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