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. GonzoinHouston

    The players have every right to publicly declare their support for anything but next Sunday's opponent.

    September 8, 2012 at 5:51 pm | Report abuse |
  2. bhiner99

    I think that I will exercise MY right to think for myself and not rely on the opinions expressed by athletes, politicians, models, comedic commentators, or hip hop musicians. Anything else would be ... silly.

    September 8, 2012 at 5:59 pm | Report abuse |
    • paw2100

      Does that include Clint Eastwood?

      September 8, 2012 at 6:06 pm | Report abuse |
  3. rock woman

    I'm not an Ayanbadejo fan, I'm not a Ravens fan, heck, I'm not even a football fan. And oh, yeh, I'm not gay, either.

    Nor do I live in Maryland. If I did, I'd be trying really, really hard to get Burns out of office.

    September 8, 2012 at 6:08 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Happyashail!

    Im gay and dated a nfl player, he was a tight end when we met, but was a wide reciever when we parted. Used to love to tackle him.

    September 8, 2012 at 6:09 pm | Report abuse |
    • Leonardo


      September 8, 2012 at 7:11 pm | Report abuse |
  5. dazzle ©

    I support the stand that these gentlemen have taken on gay marriage. It doesn't matter who one chooses to love and why? I have 2 very dear gay men in my life and one is an ex player for the Vikings, the other a successful business owner. Each of them are married to partners that they have been with for 30 years or more. This shouldn't be a political or religious matter. Let people live their lives the way they choose to.

    September 8, 2012 at 6:11 pm | Report abuse |
    • bobcat (in a hat)©

      Good evening dazzle

      How are you doing tonight ? I agree with you whole heartedly on you stance. That's the biggest problem in the world today, everyone wants to impose their thinking on all. If it's not right for you, that's just fine. But you are not everyone else.. I'm sorry to inform you folks, but this is not a one size fits all world. If everyone would concern themselves with their lives, and quit being a buttinski, the road through life would be so much smoother.

      September 8, 2012 at 6:30 pm | Report abuse |
    • GeorgeW

      Correct and just leave marriage for the straight couples.

      September 8, 2012 at 7:17 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mary

      @ bobcat (in a hat)©, Keeping quit about Gods word on issues is just as if you're condoning that sinful behavior.
      I support Both the chickfil la owner and Brendon Ayanbadejo's right to free speech... As I do yours

      September 8, 2012 at 7:25 pm | Report abuse |
    • bobcat (in a hat)©

      @ Mary

      It's not so much condoning the act as it is not my place or anyone elses to pass judgement. In that belief, all of us will have to answer for our choices in life. It is not ours to condemn.

      September 8, 2012 at 7:43 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mary

      @ bobcat (in a hat)©, In the words of Clint Eastwood in " The Unforgiven" "We all have it coming"
      For me, I don't condon hom os@xuality based on Gods word.
      Enough said ?
      Have a good evening sir. 😉

      September 8, 2012 at 7:59 pm | Report abuse |
    • sqeptiq

      There are way too many people wandering around this country looking for something to be offended about. Since many of them claim to be followers of Jesus Christ, maybe they should take heed of the biblical injunction to remove the beam from their own eye before pointing out the mote in others'.

      September 8, 2012 at 10:21 pm | Report abuse |
  6. DIna

    Any politician that doesn't understand free speech does not deserve the honor of representing his community.

    September 8, 2012 at 6:14 pm | Report abuse |
    • dazzle ©

      @bobcat(in a hat) good to see the real you. I am an Independent but I want government to keep their nose out of my life and the lives of others. The same goes for churches and such. I hope you are having a lovely evening.

      September 8, 2012 at 6:37 pm | Report abuse |
    • bobcat (in a hat)©

      @ dazzle

      It is good to see you here as well. I also am an independent and do not appreciate any so called authorative figure or enti ty making my decisions for me.
      We're entering the final phase of training this week, and I will be giving them the finals next weekend. Then I'll have about a two week break. I'm really looking forward to it.

      September 8, 2012 at 6:42 pm | Report abuse |
  7. RoadRunner, Albuquerque, NM

    "Duplicate comment detected; it looks as though you’ve already said that!"

    And, that is as far as I can get in posting a sensible, profanity free, legitimate comment about this story. My original comment was "CENSORED" and never appeared, and I am blocked from participating in this dialogue which is important to me, and adds another dimension to this dialogue.

    For those of you who have been successful in passing the CENSORSHIP test, just be aware that there are other aspects to this discussion that are not being allowed, and are carefully and assiduously CENSORED by CNN. So, in other words, play the cards you are dealt, but keep in mind that on this blog, you are not playing with a full deck, through no fault of your own. Thanks.

    September 8, 2012 at 6:19 pm | Report abuse |
    • dazzle ©

      @bobcat(in a hat) we are so much on the same page with this. Did your trainees ever conclude that you were joking with them? I thought of you this week, when I got caught in a horrible downpour with mudslides. I was half way home and sat there in traffic forever. Your brother first responders came to our rescue and gave us a ride home in a fire truck. They were great and joked with everyone, calming the nervous and giving us water and snacks. I thought this is the way our bobcat(in a hat) would be. I had gift cards that I wanted to give them but they declined.

      September 8, 2012 at 6:49 pm | Report abuse |
    • bobcat (in a hat)©

      @ dazzle

      They finally deduced that I was joking about the joke test, but I opened a can of worms. Now they won't even let me get the class started without first telling a joke. I've got to say, this is the best group I've had yet. Great guys and gals.
      I know you had to be scared with the weather and landslides. I'm glad you are alright.
      The people that helped you out were for sure following our golden rule. Always diffuse the situation. By putting those we serve at ease, the anxious moments normally won't escalate into more serious problems.
      And their refusal of the gift cards is also par. We get our thanks from the looks of relief and grati tude.

      September 8, 2012 at 7:03 pm | Report abuse |
  8. BOMBO ©

    Do we know for sure that Burns isn't being sarcastic? Because, what he said is word for word, what I would expect some sarcastic person to say if they were imitating a stereotype of a double digit IQ yahoo. "How dare a player on your team exercise his right to freedom of speech." No, that CAN'T be serious.

    September 8, 2012 at 6:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • dazzle ©

      @bobcat(in a hat) I thought you disappeared. You have to be a fabulous instructor and lead by example. At least when you are writing lesson plans, you can have your opening joke ready in advance. These first responders that helped me out were just great. The only thing that had me anxious was getting my car out the next day to go to work. One even offered to pick me up the next morning but someone else helped me out. I made a huge platter of manicotti, meatballs, and homemade marinara which I will bring to the fire station tomorrow before "church." They better accept this as I'm sure they get hungry during the day.

      September 8, 2012 at 7:59 pm | Report abuse |
    • bobcat (in a hat)©

      @ dazzle

      You just got my mouth watering so badly. Manicotti is one of most favorite dishes ever. And then with a side of meatballs and homemade marinara ? Those guys at the firhouse are going to love you forever. You are just to sweet.

      September 8, 2012 at 8:18 pm | Report abuse |
  9. ATLmatt

    Brendon Ayanbadejo has a few fan. Thanks for speaking out.

    September 8, 2012 at 6:34 pm | Report abuse |
  10. BOMBO ©

    I can think of a couple of countries where this kind of thinking (let the government decide what is best for everyone) is prevalent. Iran. China. But not the USA. If Burns is serious, he's living in the wrong country.

    September 8, 2012 at 6:35 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Johnjon

    These two young men give my partner and I hope for the future of this country.

    September 8, 2012 at 6:41 pm | Report abuse |
    • sqeptiq

      partner and ME. ;-}

      September 8, 2012 at 10:27 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Mia

    Any politician who would write to someone's employer and ask that employer to make the employee stop participating in political discourse should never, ever be re-elected. While i think its perfectly fine for any and all of us to "put our money where are mouths are" and refuse to support anyone whose speech we find abhorrent, I also think its important for our politicians to recognize that they've assumed a special role in society. To be an elected official and try to silence someone – either directly or my pressuring his/her employer- is the epitome of inappropriate.

    September 8, 2012 at 6:42 pm | Report abuse |
  13. msadr

    Wow! Although I strongly disagree with this football player about gay marriage, I strongly support his right to voice his opinion. Just like the Chik Fil A guy has every right to voice his opinion.

    September 8, 2012 at 6:44 pm | Report abuse |
    • Bob

      Right on! Liberals forget at times that free speech goes both ways. They support gay marriage, but if anyone speaks out against it, they call it "hate" and try to supress THAT free speech. I will fight gay marriage until the day I die (I am only 35 and have 10 kids – brining up the kids to vote against sinful behavior) and it is am much my right to fight against it as it is for anyone to fight for it.

      September 8, 2012 at 6:51 pm | Report abuse |
    • banasy©

      I will truly laugh if God, should one meet him, would laugh at that person and say, "guess what! You had it all wrong...I like gay people and wanted to see if you could pass the test of judgmental hatred, bigotry, and tolerance. You lose. Buh bye."

      September 8, 2012 at 7:08 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mary

      @ banasy©, Your 7:08 post IS so slanderous towards Gods word ... he NEVER said anything other than being gay is a sin. Tell me where in the Bible does Gods word say it's a test. And hiding behind the word "if" in your post is small, even for you.

      September 8, 2012 at 7:13 pm | Report abuse |
    • Sane Person

      Difference being, one side wants equal rights. The other wants to prevent equality.

      September 8, 2012 at 7:14 pm | Report abuse |
    • @Mary

      It was a hypothetical post, one I found hilarious as all get out, and if God has a problem with it, he will take it up with banasy, not you. If anyone perverts the word of our Lord, it is people like you who interprets it to fit your anti-civil rights agenda. Shed the veil of hypocrisy, and join the real world. It is not for YOU to judge, Mary; not one's opinions, and not one's choice as to who to love You are guilty of the sin of being jugemental. and may you be judged as harshly by Him as you already do towards other posters and gays: you truly do not follow Christs's teachings, otherwise you would not have written this post at all. If God were rating you on a scale of 1 to 10, what score do you think you'd get?

      September 8, 2012 at 7:27 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jack

      Blsphempus HOW? Are you going to try her as....a heretic? A witch? Grow up and get over it, little lamb.

      September 8, 2012 at 7:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • mike

      @Mary the original text doesn't condemn gay people. Anyone can Google that info. When Christ met a gay man, via the Roman Centurion, he said of him, Never have I seen faith greater than this. He didn't chirp in with, Now yi and sin no more.

      September 8, 2012 at 7:34 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mary

      @ Mike and Banasy, Judging?
      How can I judge when Gods word clearly states not to lay with another man.
      Citation: read all of leviticus
      Good nite

      September 8, 2012 at 7:45 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jack

      Mary. Banay posted once. Why keep bringing her up?

      September 8, 2012 at 8:10 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jack

      I don't want to start any blaphemous rumors But I think that God's got a sick sense of humor And when I die I expect to find Him laughing.

      September 8, 2012 at 8:12 pm | Report abuse |
    • Levi

      God's word, writen by man, who may have left out a few peritinent words to control the sheeple!

      September 8, 2012 at 8:14 pm | Report abuse |
    • Levi

      Oh, and St. Paul was gay. Gey your nose stuck out of one book and explore others, ok, Mary?

      September 8, 2012 at 8:35 pm | Report abuse |
    • Kurt

      Mary, rubbish. When confronted with evidence that the dinosaurs roamed the earth a million years ago, you folks say it's a test from God as how strong your faith is to the book of Genesis, and how long the earth has existed. Can't have it both ways. A test is a test, lady.

      September 8, 2012 at 9:04 pm | Report abuse |
    • sqeptiq

      banasy, you are so on point!
      Mary's point defines disjoint!

      September 8, 2012 at 10:30 pm | Report abuse |
    • DiedrichKyrian


      Do you support the 2nd Amendment? If you answer yes, then why are you taking mine and *several* posters (not to mention EVERY GAY PERSON'S) first Amendment rights away. If you think its freedom of speech. Think again. So if *I* cant have my first Amendement's rights, then, I'll say you cant have your 19th Amendment.

      Thank you and Jesus was Gay!! (no, just kidding!)

      September 9, 2012 at 9:49 am | Report abuse |
  14. Katie

    Freedom of speech is also a freedom for those who say things people don't agree with or don't want to hear.

    September 8, 2012 at 6:44 pm | Report abuse |
    • dazzle ©

      @banasy, don't you love it when those people turn it around and make it about being a liberal of which I am not.

      September 8, 2012 at 7:12 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Bob

    We should also fight for sodomy, brothers marrying brothers and getting it on in the bedroom, sisters marrying sisters and getting it on, etc. In fact, let's through all rules of societial decency out the window while we are at it.

    September 8, 2012 at 6:53 pm | Report abuse |
    • Morgan

      Blah blah blah. No one's sliding on your slippery slope here, buddy.

      September 8, 2012 at 7:03 pm | Report abuse |
    • Craig

      Learn to spell idiot

      September 8, 2012 at 7:11 pm | Report abuse |
    • Steve

      What does gay marriage have to do with any of these things?

      September 8, 2012 at 7:11 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jack

      We should also fight against guys named Bob who can't post coherently.

      September 8, 2012 at 7:30 pm | Report abuse |
    • DiedrichKyrian


      Have you visited Canada? Seen Niagra Falls? Visited Vancouver?

      Well guess what! You support gay marriage!!! (Canada approved gays to be married for almost 10 years now). Didnt see any riots, "perverts" running out on the streets, they still support US, have a decent/half-way decent healthcare system and are pretty cool folks.

      Just some food for thought; IF you wanna ban gay marriage, then Ban Canada

      *Blame Canada...Blame Canada...*

      September 9, 2012 at 9:52 am | Report abuse |
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