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. Nelson Ross

    I sincerely hope that we are all too intelligent to comment on an idiot like Burns. The football ceiling has finally been broken ! Thanks guys. We watch and cheer you evgery week.

    September 8, 2012 at 7:02 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Morgan

    Kluwe's letter to Burns was pure magic, and should be required reading for every American (though, like Burns, some may need to hire an interpreter).

    September 8, 2012 at 7:02 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jack

      Funniest thing I've read in a while.

      September 8, 2012 at 7:31 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Gadflie

    Here's a dose of reality for you folks. Gay marriage is advancing faster than any other civil rights issue in history. In a very few years by civil rights standards, the people fighting against gay marriage will be doing what the people who stood against school integration are doing today, lying about which side they were on.

    September 8, 2012 at 7:07 pm | Report abuse |
    • banasy©

      Beautifully put.

      September 8, 2012 at 7:09 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dan

      So true.

      September 8, 2012 at 7:15 pm | Report abuse |
    • Henry

      Will be harder to do since most of them post their mind on FB.

      September 8, 2012 at 7:16 pm | Report abuse |
    • toofarawayfromboston

      I am on the right side – Pro Gay Marriage and Pro Equal Rights for all.

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

      Stay in the closet.

      September 8, 2012 at 7:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jack

      You can come out now, George. Nobody cares.

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

      nicely said

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

      I agree................ my partner and I have waited 22 years to get hitched. Maybe for our 25th or 30th anniversary it will become a reality

      September 8, 2012 at 7:53 pm | Report abuse |
  4. AirForceTough

    Gay Marriage is just marriage...it's all just marriage.

    Marriage equality is simply a civil rights issue.

    It's civil rights.

    September 8, 2012 at 7:15 pm | Report abuse |
    • GeorgeW

      no its not its a behavior they choose to engage in. now they want the gov to recognized this behavior and get get a tax credit.

      September 8, 2012 at 7:26 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jack

      They want to get married. It's about civil rights, and they want the government to recognize eaqual right for ALL. I know this is difficult for you to grasp, but try anyhow.

      September 8, 2012 at 7:36 pm | Report abuse |
    • nurse lady

      George, It has to be a tax cerdit? They cant be in love and want to show it just like every straight couple on the planet? they choose to be among the most negativly portrayed groups, ever. They woke up on morning and thought " Gee, I dont feel hated enough so I am going to be gay from now on."
      Get a grip dude. Gay men and women should have the same rights as anyone else. Besides, How is your business what two people in love want to do with their lives?

      September 8, 2012 at 10:25 pm | Report abuse |
    • sqeptiq

      People like george always see an ulterior motive in others but never see their own.

      September 8, 2012 at 10:35 pm | Report abuse |
    • sam stone

      GeorgeW: The Supreme Court said that marriage is a civil right.

      September 9, 2012 at 10:28 am | Report abuse |
  5. toofarawayfromboston

    Kudos to Brendon and everyone who came to his side in this. Shame on Mr. Burns...

    September 8, 2012 at 7:15 pm | Report abuse |
  6. SS

    Another social controvery erupts and, surprise surprise, judgement religious people trying to enforce their views and beliefs on others are at the center once again.

    September 8, 2012 at 7:17 pm | Report abuse |
  7. scott

    r u kidding me???? there are so many problems in the u.s. who cares if 2 gay dudes or 2 gay women want to get married...its no skin off my back, they arent asking me for money, bottom line is, it is none of my business...go ahead, if u want to become as miserable as the rest of us, have at it....

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

      THANK YOU! Well said.

      September 8, 2012 at 10:26 pm | Report abuse |
  8. PBinNJ

    I am amazed and impressed that someone in the NFL would express an opinion supporting gay marriage. A few years ago such a thing would have been unthinkable. In those days we heard football players announce they would not play with a gay team member, such was the antipathy to anything gay. Just announcing support for a public policy issue like this takes real guts when you're in the NFL.

    September 8, 2012 at 7:27 pm | Report abuse |
  9. aj

    Sports is no place for these social/political agendas! Next thing you know, players will be writing scripture on themselves and supporting anti-abortion campaigns...

    Hey, Mr. Burns. I bet you'd be even more outraged if somebody did that.

    September 8, 2012 at 7:31 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Janie

    I seem to find more and more that those who screech the loudest against things such as gay marriage, gay rights, the Pride Parades, etc. end up being the ones caught with a " wide stance" in the men's room, or needing a buff young man to carry their luggage because they have a "bad back". Perhaps Mr. Brown had better make sure exactly why the thought of gay marriage scares him so greatly that he would attempt to use his "position of power" to shut up someone who has absolutely nothing to do with him and was doing something positive for a charity he believes in.

    September 8, 2012 at 7:33 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Jack

    If Burns cannot even grasp the First Amendment, he has no business representing anyone.

    September 8, 2012 at 7:38 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Les Too

    Who marries whom is neither the government's nor Mr. Burn's business. Thanks to the sports people that spoke up against Mr. Burns. The fact that Mr. Burn's is a member of Congress and a Xtian minister is itself a story that should be pursued. Burn's needs to resign if he can't keep his personal religious views out of his congressional office.

    Marriage is a commitment between 2 people that love each other. Period. The government should issue legally binding "civil union" certificates to every couple that "marries"; and, the church can do their own thing with a separate but not legally binding "marriage certificate" if they wish.

    September 8, 2012 at 7:41 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mal

      Bob's comment below is right on point. Marriage is a civil license that you get from a courthouse. A church marriage is not recognized by the government. If marriage were only a Christian Church/God event then Atheists, Hindus, etc. could not get married in this country. Legal marriage has NOTHING to do with religion.

      September 9, 2012 at 8:53 am | Report abuse |
  13. Wannetta

    Mr. Burns is a deluded, religious nut. Note I did not say Christian, because he is not one. The definition of Christian is literally "Christ Like" The garbage that came out of his mouth is no where near Christ Like. They so proudly wave their religious principles, which are basically filthy rags. Now, I'm going to go kiss my wonderful wife of 26 years and continue to treat her as the blessing that she is and not let a jerk like Mr. Burns irritate me.

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

      Christian is a word people use to recommend themselves when they have nothing else to offer.

      September 8, 2012 at 10:38 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Ty Ubben

    Way to go Brendon Ayanbadejo! You are a hero. Bigotry is unAmerican!

    September 8, 2012 at 7:45 pm | Report abuse |
  15. blahb31

    "Smithers, are they booing me?"

    "Uh, no, they're saying 'Boo-urns! Boo-urns!'"

    September 8, 2012 at 7:45 pm | Report abuse |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19