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. RE McCray

    Good for him!!

    September 8, 2012 at 9:11 pm | Report abuse |
  2. EatYouAlive

    And tomorrow this preacher man will teach his congregation even more hate and intolerance. All in the name of yet another god.

    September 8, 2012 at 9:15 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Kenney

    @kurt absolutley correct yiu are ! On the other hand fredom of speech is for all americans,,,,about this burns person,,,,,im a gay male and am definatly in support of this person speaking out on this topic i have the upmost respect for him his speaking of this is not easy and i know i am out ,,,,so hats off to him !!! Now as far as this MARY is concerned dont waste your time with her she is considered the super troll of CNN and her little cohort PHILLIP but you did speak well thanks

    September 8, 2012 at 9:17 pm | Report abuse |
  4. whoa

    Read the letter. Congrats in stopping another hateful individual that wishes to halt the progress of the great United States of America.

    September 8, 2012 at 9:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • banasy¬©

      The letter was superb.
      And hilarious as it gets.
      I particularly liked the fromunda reference, that made me laugh so hard!

      September 8, 2012 at 9:25 pm | Report abuse |
    • whoa

      I liked the P.S. part. Now that was hilarious. Couldn't help but laugh.

      September 8, 2012 at 9:26 pm | Report abuse |
    • banasy¬©

      I liked the last sentence of it: that one word just wrapped it up neatly!

      September 8, 2012 at 9:34 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Obi Vious

    Tax churches NOW as the commercial businesses they are... and fraudulent ones at that.

    September 8, 2012 at 9:21 pm | Report abuse |
    • banasy¬©

      That should have been done years ago; I agree fully!
      Think of the $ the Government can rack in...

      September 8, 2012 at 9:40 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Rufus T. Firefly

    Brendon, you are a football player, how dare you have enlightened opinions!

    September 8, 2012 at 9:22 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Bruce

    Canadians are 'liberal' and we have the best country in the world where we repect ALL people. Nothing wrong at all with being liberal. Too bad there are not more of us around.......the world would be a far better place in which to live!!!!

    September 8, 2012 at 9:23 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Aezel

    Lol even the NFL is pro-gay. It hate to tell you Republitårds, but the culture war is over, and you lost.

    September 8, 2012 at 9:24 pm | Report abuse |
  9. iminim

    Football players, like fast food chain owners, have every right to express their opinions. It is called freedom of speech. Mr Burns also has the right to voice his opinions, but it is rather hypocritical for him to try to restrict someone else's right to speak their mind while, at the same time, exercising his own right to freedom of speech. Of course, freedom to be a hypocrit is a natural byproduct of freedom of speech for many people.

    September 8, 2012 at 9:25 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Rascal Rabble

    professional and college football industry has been riddle with raunch, scandals, and immorality for years...it's just finally showing the true colors...and like any other male dominated discipline you can expected infiltration by the gays...fathers be your own hero to your sons and find a more wholesome past time to share with your families...

    September 8, 2012 at 9:27 pm | Report abuse |
    • whoa

      Infiltration? There has been no infiltration. The Raven player said he supported marriage equality; he never stated he was gay. Fail.

      September 8, 2012 at 9:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • EatYouAlive

      Being gay is a pastime?

      September 8, 2012 at 11:05 pm | Report abuse |
    • Gack Gack


      September 9, 2012 at 12:29 am | Report abuse |
  11. david

    What Brendon and the rest of his team mates need to realize they are no longer just every day citizens.. They are public figures, they are heros to many. Brendon needs to realize taht just by going public and saying such things, in uniform or out of uniform, he is contributing to the bullying that is occuring. Especially with the teenagers who really watch this sport with a passion. Did he ever stop and think for one second that not all gay men are flamboyant. Did he ever stop to think that many gay men play sports and hope one day that they will be treated equal. THank You Brendon for ruining this dream for another generation with your bigot remarks.

    September 8, 2012 at 9:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • nurse lady

      HE is the reason for being bullied? HE is the cause of distress for gaymen the play sports? HE is the bigot? WOW!

      September 8, 2012 at 10:34 pm | Report abuse |
    • Gack Gack

      Methinks you have your argument backwards. You make no sense.

      September 9, 2012 at 12:31 am | Report abuse |
  12. noly972

    Change the name of the 'Marriage License' to 'Domestic Partnership Contract' and make it binding upon issue. Any two adults (who are not already under such a contract with another party) can enter into a 'Domestic Partnership Contract'. Those couples who wish to get married can subsequently go to a church or other organization and celebrate Holy Matrimony or what ever their church calls it. Mazel Tov!

    September 8, 2012 at 9:35 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Kenney

    @wanneta,,,,correction for you MR BURNS di irritate you on here or you wouldnt of reacted right? Gay male here ,,,,,but the fact is that its ok to be a married straight couple to,,,,, i was married for 16 1/2 yrs and am now out my X wife knew all along that i was but never quesioned it and i recently found through extensive therapy ,,,,even my daughters knew before i came out but im also blessed with two beautifull daughters that i love very much and do not regret ever having,,,,thats a blessing in its self and im not ashamed one bit ! The former wife is very understandind

    September 8, 2012 at 9:35 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Diz

    That letter was the highlight of my night ūüėõ I haven't lol like that in a long time! The one-liners alone are worth reading the response.. And I completely agree with every letter in it. I'm not reading these comments bcs I'm figuring a bunch of holy rollers are screaming in outrage– but I figured I'd throw in my support for the NFL boys! Bravo

    September 8, 2012 at 9:37 pm | Report abuse |
    • Gack Gack

      Actually, a lot of the posts here are supporting the NFL Boys, just like you and me!

      September 9, 2012 at 12:34 am | Report abuse |
  15. Rob

    ugh! Actually gay people getting married has 100% affect on my life because I am an American. ANYTHING that affects our society affects us all. You could say that somebody across the country getting murdered doesn't affect my life. On the surface that might be true...but if we didn't hunt down the killer and punish him/her it WOULD affect me because it affect our society. Typical of a Ravens player though. They are all pretty gay to start with.

    September 8, 2012 at 9:38 pm | Report abuse |
    • Bill Peterson

      You're right. We are all interconnected. A perfect argument for communism.

      September 8, 2012 at 9:40 pm | Report abuse |
    • RoadRunner, Albuquerque, NM

      @ Bill Peterson: "...And for Christianity as well."

      September 8, 2012 at 10:15 pm | Report abuse |
    • Gack Gack

      Nobody killed anybody here. Though, I bet some here would like to eliminate the kind of blatant categorical prejudice that you are spewing.

      September 9, 2012 at 12:37 am | Report abuse |
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