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. banasy©

    Hairshirt time, lol.
    Guess when I talk to the Big Mon later, we'll straighten it out, huh?

    September 8, 2012 at 7:47 pm | Report abuse |
    • dazzle ©

      @banasy- does it ever hand with that. I believe you are correct in that. Hopefully it is waaaaayyyyy later.

      September 8, 2012 at 8:46 pm | Report abuse |
  2. WDinDallas

    Marriage is between a man and a woman. If your want a registered partnership, like they have in Europe, then fine. You can partner up with a tree as far as I care.

    Anyone and everyone has the right to express their opinion, football player or not. Just remember, so do others that are against Gay Marriage.

    September 8, 2012 at 8:05 pm | Report abuse |
    • Blackflag

      Where do you stand on Texas seceding from the union? I personally think it would be a great idea.

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

      Think you're talking about holy matrimony, which is different than marriage, which is nothing more than a piece of paper. Why deny gays the right to marry? Because you think of a different definition?

      September 8, 2012 at 8:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • Robert

      Yes, everyone has a right to express their opinion. But what this moronic politician did was try to stop someone he disagrees with from expressing HIS opinion

      September 8, 2012 at 8:23 pm | Report abuse |
    • ShingoEX

      I don't support discrimination in a country that claims equality.

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

      Thanks for reminding us that Texas has yet to evolve.

      ohhhh yeeeaahh, I forgot, you dopes don't believe in that, either... Sigh...

      September 8, 2012 at 8:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • banasy©

      Burns isn't fit to represent consti tuents if he can't follow the tenants of the 1st Amendment...

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

      Marriage is a legal definition. Atheists, Jews, Hindus, etc. can all get married outside of your narrow definition of marriage. So a religion can't define what is "marriage" in the U.S., the law does. Even if you have a minister marry you in a church, in the eyes of the law, you are not married unless you have a government-issued marriage license. You can't file jointly, inheritance, or hospital visitation without that government-issued marriage license. So this "marriage is a religious definition" is complete bull. If you want to call the voodoo ceremony that your local church performs (but probably not to interracial couples) "Super-Duper-Special-Christian-But-Not-Including-Mormons Marriage", go right ahead. No one will care.

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

      Since a license from the state is necessary for a marriage, marriage is whatever the state deems it to be.

      September 8, 2012 at 10:02 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jeff

      Hey Dallas....you do have the right to express your opinion how ever wrong it may be. Burns made a big mistake by trying to interfere with a contract between Mr. Ayanbadejo and the NFL. Let him stay out in the public debating arena not trying to hurt a working man's career.

      September 9, 2012 at 10:31 am | Report abuse |
  3. Oldwhiteman

    I live in Texas and have been with my partner 17yrs. We can't marry and have to spend $700 every year or so to renew our wills to creat a will-wall...otherwise, our wishes upon our deaths can be challenged in court. I pay a ton of taxes...have never once been attracted to a woman even though I tried very hard. I am gay - can't help it - and am not respected by the American system. I want to thank these football players for having intelligence, understanding, and character enough to call out the System on this issue.

    September 8, 2012 at 8:06 pm | Report abuse |
    • Blackflag

      First, you have my sincere sympathies. Your experience of life in America clearly does not mesh with what America is supposed to be about and clearly you are not alone. Second, and I mean this from the heart, move out of Texas. Come on man, make life a little easier on yourself at least. Anywhere but there...

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

      Oldwhiteman, I am an old white man living in Texas, and I want to tell you that there a lot of old white men living in Texas who just so happen to not be gay who are sorry that you have to go through what you have had to endure. As you know, Texas is full of a lot of great people. The problem is that we have living amongst us a large number of bigots. I don't know, as a cranky old white man, I sometimes find it difficult putting up with quite a few folks – gay, straight, white, black, brown, male, female and shades in between. I also find it difficult to not get along with folks of those same categories. My point is, that we are all just people, and if we eliminate the possibility of knowing, or loving, someone categorically just because they are not the way we are, we a missing a very large messy part of what it is to be human. Thank you Oldwhiteman for sharing Texas with me. Now, let's go out and try to make it a little bit better for all of us, and for some of us, whether they like it or not.

      September 9, 2012 at 1:11 am | Report abuse |
  4. Blackflag

    I am opposed to gay marriage. I am also opposed to straight marriage. Marriage is horrible. Why should gay people have to suffer from it when they can learn from our mistakes? With that said, if they still want to make that mistake they have just as much right to do so as anyone else. The fact that this is even a serious debate in 2012 is ridiculous. Time for you baby boomers to move along. Thanks for saving us from speaking German and all but tonight how about you just round up all the prescriptions in the house and guzzle them all down in one shot and then take a nice long nap. The rest of us will wake up to a stronger America tomorrow and maybe Social Security and Medicare will still be around for a while. No offense. Thanks for everything. It's just time for you to go now...

    September 8, 2012 at 8:09 pm | Report abuse |
    • Straight4gays

      You have my sincere sympathies. Your narrow-minded views, bigotry, and hatred make you part of an America that is headed the way of the dinosaur. Unfortunately we real Americans who place our faith in equality, and who have the mental capacity to experience empathy, have to put up with your rantings. Seriously, and I mean this sincerely, sit down and examine your life – is this really who you are? A proponent of hatred and government interference in the private and personal decisions of free human beings? But, I doubt you can do it. You are among those blessed with a real lack of self-awareness.

      September 8, 2012 at 8:49 pm | Report abuse |
    • banasy©

      You're not getting my SS, which I have yet to collect on, btw, and I'm certainly not going to off myself because you have no clear idea of what a baby boomer is...you're posts are funny and relevant, but in this case, no go.

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

      Blackflag, you are a very sad person. I am so happy that I do not have to know you.

      September 9, 2012 at 1:14 am | Report abuse |
  5. bobcat (in a hat)©

    You know, many of us on here have been called liberals. Liberal: Let's take a look at that word.

    Liberal – As in giving freely of myself for the benefit of others ?
    Liberal – As in being free in my thoughts ?
    Liberal – As in striving to leave things better than I found them ?

    Damn it boy !!! I just discovered that I'm a liberal. But only in my personal life.
    How can a word that means things like this be used in such a derogatory form. When did it become something to be ashamed of ?

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

      Yeah, the radical right still doesn't understand that people who identify themselves as liberals, or sharing some liberal ideologies, are not offended by that word. Then again, they don't understand a lot of things...

      September 8, 2012 at 8:16 pm | Report abuse |
    • banasy©

      Well said, Rawr.

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

      Bobcat, I agree with you wholeheartedly. The scary part to me is that Blackflag has somehow seemed to align himself with your comment. Seems we have a true misanthrope amongst us.

      September 9, 2012 at 1:19 am | Report abuse |
  6. terry

    Sheesh! If ever there was an issue that is no big deal, this has to be it. Why would anyone care about gay marriage? Shouldn't we only care about issues that actually affect us?

    September 8, 2012 at 8:15 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Lizzy10

    Mr. Ayanbadjeo and Mr. Kluwe are representative of the present-young people who don't care who you want to marry and support the right of two people who love each other to marry each other. Yay to our youth, we could all learn from them.

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

    There is clearly an element of jealously and self-loathing in those who automatically hate celebrities for being celebrities. I personally hate the celebrity culture in America, but I judge individuals on their own merits.

    September 8, 2012 at 8:20 pm | Report abuse |
  9. boodiggly

    Athletes: Stay out of politics
    Polticians: Stay out of people's bedrooms

    Got it? GOOD

    Play ball!

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

    ATHLETES: Stay out of politics
    POLITICIANS: Stay out of people's bedrooms

    Got it? GOOD!

    Now, play ball

    September 8, 2012 at 8:29 pm | Report abuse |
  11. correctlycenter

    If God says it's wrong, some will say it's right. Like it says in Isaiah, evil will be considered good and good will be considered evil...

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

      Have you ever worn two different type of fabrics? Or worked on the Sabath? or eaten shell fish? ..... the list goes on... but if you take the bible literally then if you said yes to any of these you should be stoned to death. Oh and if your child disrespects you then you should kill your child. The bible is a book written in a time long gone. Although there are great ideas in the bible they shouldn't be taken literally today. And why is the "moral majority" (not the term I would use) in charge of everyone else? The bottom line is it's going to happen just like women got to vote and inter-racial marriages were at one point outlawed but now they aren't. Let's start worrying about bigger issues like all the people being killed in Syria to have what we take for granted over here?

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

      What if a quick Google search proved the original text doesn't condemn gay people? Try it, just Google "does the original texy of the bible condemn gay people". People like you, however, don't care to know the truth.

      September 8, 2012 at 8:58 pm | Report abuse |
  12. SPW

    Just abolish marriage and force everyone into 'partnerships'.

    Problem solved, married couples will still be viewed as so by their church and religious community. This is how it should be, if the government actually respected its duty to separate church and state.

    September 8, 2012 at 8:36 pm | Report abuse |
    • banasy©

      Kind of like the corporations that consider themselves as individuals?
      Yeah, I could live with that, lol...

      September 8, 2012 at 8:48 pm | Report abuse |
  13. John

    3 cheers to those who stand up for equality. Politicians who use their elected position to try to suppress freedom of speech have no business being in office.... time to give Burns the old heeve ho.

    September 8, 2012 at 8:47 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Steven

    Here's a simple idea... If you don't like gay marriage... don't marry one.

    September 8, 2012 at 9:01 pm | Report abuse |
  15. IndianaGreg

    While I do agree with the opinion that Gay Marriage is nothing to be afraid of, and do believe it was completely wrong of this politician to seek censorship from the NFL, I ALSO don't believe that what Ayanbadejo said should be considered "brave"...he's giving the Politically Correct Opinion, and his opinion supporting Gay Marriage rights is no more "brave" than saying you prefer Android to iPhone (which is something else people believe just as passionately...sad to say)

    September 8, 2012 at 9:03 pm | Report abuse |
    • random

      "Brave" may be too strong a word, but it is certainly admirable when anyone stands up for a freedom or right that doesn't benefit him personally. All of us focusing only on the rights that are important to each of us is what has allowed the government to infringe on the freedoms of all of us.

      September 8, 2012 at 9:21 pm | Report abuse |
    • anon

      And, depending where you live, it may not be "politically correct" to those around you and certainly isn't "popular opinion." If it was, we wouldn't even be having this argument.

      September 8, 2012 at 9:41 pm | Report abuse |
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