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. Nichole

    Irregardless of where you stand on the issue of gay marriage here is what I see to be a fact. A U.S. politician asked an employer to violate one of his employee's right to free speech. Bottom line is, that is wrong!

    September 10, 2012 at 10:01 am | Report abuse |
    • Schoolmarm

      Regardless of how many times people attempt to us irregardless, there appears to be a general consensus that it is not acceptable as standard usage.
      Webster's advises:Irregardless originated in dialectal American speech in the early 20th century. Its fairly widespread use in speech called it to the attention of usage commentators as early as 1927. The most frequently repeated remark about it is that “there is no such word.” There is such a word, however. It is still used primarily in speech, although it can be found from time to time in edited prose. Its reputation has not risen over the years, and it is still a long way from general acceptance. Use regardless instead.

      September 10, 2012 at 2:26 pm | Report abuse |
    • KVN

      Beautifully written.

      September 10, 2012 at 2:40 pm | Report abuse |
    • VulpesRex

      Oh! You mean sort of like what Rahmbo and the Boston mayor said they would do to Chick-Fil-A for Dan Cathy's remarks?

      Progressives are the ultimate hypocrites.

      September 11, 2012 at 6:32 pm | Report abuse |
    • sam stone

      Both sides have their hypocrisy. To think it is one side or the other is foolish

      September 12, 2012 at 3:20 pm | Report abuse |
    • VulpesRex

      Conservatives are always completely logical. We like a small, non-intrusive government that tells you who you can marry, dictates birth control rules for women, and wants to make Christianity the de facto religion of the United States.

      October 18, 2012 at 2:03 pm | Report abuse |
    • don C

      Then let's have cheerleaders be all male or at least a mixture.

      October 18, 2012 at 2:32 pm | Report abuse |
    • Todd in DC

      Actually, VulpusRex, most progressives are AGAINST the Boston mayor saying he will ban Chik-Fil-A for being anti gay.

      We just wont patronize Chick Fil A

      October 18, 2012 at 2:48 pm | Report abuse |
  2. levidelta

    you have the right to speak your mind,DON'T FLINCH AT REBUTTAL. that to is a right!

    September 10, 2012 at 10:54 am | Report abuse |
  3. Mike

    If Tim Tebow can express his religion then the freedom of speech of others shouldn't come into question.

    September 10, 2012 at 12:57 pm | Report abuse |
    • chipndale


      September 10, 2012 at 2:15 pm | Report abuse |
    • CherylS


      September 10, 2012 at 3:25 pm | Report abuse |
    • VulpesRex

      People (and I use that term loosely) are continually bashing Tebow for his religious expressions both on and off the field. Do you find as much offense with the people who mock Tebow for his Christianity and tell him to keep it to himself?

      September 11, 2012 at 6:34 pm | Report abuse |
    • Todd in DC

      Actually, VulpesRex, the bible tells you to keep your reliigion to yourself.

      And marriage isn't religious. It's CIVIL.

      October 18, 2012 at 2:49 pm | Report abuse |
  4. chipndale

    I love people who are bold. Thank You, Brendon! Respect and thanks for the Grata of ignorance.

    September 10, 2012 at 2:19 pm | Report abuse |
  5. pliberato

    Long live Brendon and all those who stand up for what they believe is right, the way only real Men are capable of!!!!!

    September 10, 2012 at 2:56 pm | Report abuse |
  6. On the OTHER Hand

    There are SO many of you people who scoff at God's mandate about marriage between a man and a woman, that you THINK you are right... but you are definitely NOT right. You are in DEFIANCE of the God who created you... and you OFFEND ME. That's right... YOU do not hold the monopoly on being OFFENDED, just because you portray yourselves as champions of RIGHTS. God has an answer for you who EXERCISE those perverted "rights". It is HELL. If that does not scare you... I promise you... at the moment you die.. what is left of you will be wholly TERRIFIED. You are WRONG and the people of GOD will not take it anymore. Pathetic clowns. Stop b4 you die. You will be welcomed into Eternity. Ignore this at your peril. NO amount of blustering and postering will legitimize your defiance. Make fun, deride, but Eternity is a glorious or regrettable time. Your "choice".

    September 10, 2012 at 7:09 pm | Report abuse |
    • hugethorn

      There are a lot of religious books that indicate you're wrong. Many are much older than yours. Some are newer. The fact that you choose to believe in one text and ignore the others – no, dismiss the others with great prejudice – demonstrates your closed mindedness, lack of critical thinking skills and a shortage of many other positive human attributes that you espouse. Does you're particular fantasy book tell you to hate? Tell you to judge? Tell you to kill? The sad, horrible truth is that most of them do.
      But no worries – we'll allow you to cling your fiction so long as it's not shoved down our throats.

      September 10, 2012 at 8:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • On the OTHER Hand

      *sigh* Yeah, I'm a big jerk. Sorry, I just get all excited when I think about men making out and stuff.

      October 18, 2012 at 1:56 pm | Report abuse |
    • Vickie

      I will gladly go to hell if it means that I will be happy during my lifetime.

      October 18, 2012 at 2:00 pm | Report abuse |
    • Emerald Glow

      The bible also told us not to eat fish. Something tells me you do that. How is this any different?

      October 19, 2012 at 7:53 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Dorothy

    It kills me that so many "religious" people are on here condemning gay marriage. Let's look at what gays are advocating and then let's look at what the religious right are advocating.

    Gays are advocating for MARRIAGE – in order that they can live in a legally recognized, monogamous, committed relationship. They are advocating for FAMILY so that they can raise their children in a stable home environment as a couple (yes, many being children abandoned by straight people). They are advocating for SERVICE to their country in the military.

    The religious right are advocating to keep their pastors out of jail after they have engaged in illicit se x ual activity and have actually harmed other people. They are advocating for little old ladies (who can barely put food on their own tables) to give their money to televangelists. They are advocating for the courts to protect their worldly assets from taxes and lawsuits.

    It seems to me that the gays are setting the true moral example for the world. My guess is Allah, God, Jesus, and whoever else is considered a benevolent divine being would side on the side of the gays rather than the ones who claim to be religious. By all objective criteria, they are the real spiritual and moral people in this battle.

    September 10, 2012 at 10:13 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Kevin

    Anyone who gets their morals from celebrities/politicians/sports-stars/preachers/activist is an idiot whether your for or against gay marriage or any other political issue. People need to learn to think for themselves as to whether or not something makes sense and stop being lead around like Sheeple.

    Its very scary to me how many people actually wait on others to tell them how to believe.

    September 11, 2012 at 9:55 am | Report abuse |
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    September 13, 2012 at 12:42 am | Report abuse |
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    September 13, 2012 at 5:08 pm | Report abuse |
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  12. Michael

    I don’t agree with Burns and the manner in which he handled the situation, personally I would have reached out to Ayanbadejo to express my feelings instead of going above him and contacting his boss. I fully disagree with the thought of gay marriage; it is the single most sign of disrespect to our creator and not to mention, it’s sick and perverted. With that being said, I believe each state should have its own right whether to allow gay marriage or not. Big government should mind its business and focus on more important issues such as the economy. This country is head and the wrong direction, hopefully I’m not alive when it hits wrong bottom.

    September 28, 2012 at 6:02 pm | Report abuse |
    • Canada Kay

      Michael, God loves gay people just as much as He loves you or I. Remember that. It is not your responsibility to judge a gay person as someone who is disrespectful of our Creator, nor should you refer to them as sick and disgusting. That is an opinion that some hater programmed into your head and you are carrying it around with you. And why?

      October 18, 2012 at 3:29 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Mika

    In the bible – women were chattel and owned by their husband, and in fewer than the last couple decades – we had to include "obey" in our wedding vows. Thank god traditional marriage has been REINVENTED! I believe that every AMERICAN should be offered equal rights and the government should provide EQUAL benefits no matter who you love.

    Stop the Christian Hatred!

    October 18, 2012 at 2:11 pm | Report abuse |
    • Todd in DC

      You probably don't want to know the number of people who STILL want to treat women like property to be bought, sold, traded, and discarded.

      There are binders full of women who are collected and examined for this purpose....

      October 18, 2012 at 2:52 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Janean

    This artical isn't about gay marrige, its about the freedom of speech and a law maker making a formal request for an employer to step on the rights of their employees.

    October 18, 2012 at 2:26 pm | Report abuse |
  15. JohnJay60

    I see Chilk-Fil-A mentioned here as a counterexample. The problem with Chik-Fil-A was not the owner's personal endorsement of continued discrimination, which is protected by 1st amendment, but that fact that he used Corporate money to espouse this view. He has every right to speak as a private individual using private money. Boston's complaint was around abuse of Corporate authority and I think is a fair one. If the Ravens themselves posted full-page ads in support of marriage equality, the comparison with Chik-Fil-A would be meaningful. Here, it is not.

    October 18, 2012 at 3:15 pm | Report abuse |
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