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. Rob from Ottawa

    There has never been more evil perpetrated in this world, than has been in the name of religion. It just never ends. Good for you, Brendon. You're more man than Rev. Burns will EVER be. He's not even bright enough to be ashamed of himself.

    September 8, 2012 at 9:39 pm | Report abuse |
    • Nah

      rob: "There has never been more evil perpetrated in this world, than has been in the name of religion."

      Citation please.

      Or is this something you merely believe with no factual basis?

      September 8, 2012 at 10:06 pm | Report abuse |
    • fortunecookieteller

      dear "nah," i think the citation for that observation would be hitler justfying his massacre with his religious beliefs in Mein Kampf, or you could look to the myriad Crusades in the name of religion.

      September 8, 2012 at 10:14 pm | Report abuse |
    • tony

      The Spanish Inquisition, Dictator General Franco, but there are so many if you learn even the barest amount of history.

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

      fortune: "dear "nah," i think the citation for that observation would be hitler justfying his massacre with his religious beliefs in Mein Kampf, or you could look to the myriad Crusades in the name of religion."

      The amount of historical inaccuracies in this statement is astounding, really.

      Not to mention, the assertion was that religion has caused more atrocities than anything else. However, a short survey of history (Mao, Stalin, pre-Enlightenment Europe, wars of succession, etc.) show that human nature has caused more atrocities than anything else. From breaking people on the wheel, to tyrannical monarchies, to wars over land and money.

      TONY: "The Spanish Inquisition, Dictator General Franco, but there are so many if you learn even the barest amount of history."

      Ah, yes. Cherry pick historical incidences, associate them with religion, and then condemn religion.

      It's a bit like saying some Muslims are terrorists, therefore all Muslims are terrorists, eh?

      Not to mention, your indictment of Christianity for the Inquisition likewise indicts the Spaniards.

      September 8, 2012 at 10:21 pm | Report abuse |
    • mike

      Wow, Nah, I have seen a lot but I have never seen someone in more denial than you. The saying, "more people have been killed in the Name of God more than anything else" is a very popular and very true statement. For you to attempt to argue the point is sad.

      September 8, 2012 at 10:36 pm | Report abuse |
    • Nah

      mike: "The saying, "more people have been killed in the Name of God more than anything else" is a very popular and very true statement."

      Citation please.

      "For you to attempt to argue the point is sad."

      Sorry, but when the statement conflicts with history it ought to be argued.

      For every religious atrocity committed (e.g., burning at the stake) there was a "secular" atrocity committed in the same way. Remember the Calas affair? How about Louis XV having a person tortured and brutally executed for cutting him with a pen knife?

      What about the wars of succession? Cromwell? Stalin or Mao? What about the Civil War in the U.S.? The Mexican revolutions?

      September 8, 2012 at 10:48 pm | Report abuse |
    • Sean

      You just said the Civil War was an atrocity? It was very bloody, yes, but I do believe that was a just cause. But I have a feeling Nah would be a lot happier living in those times

      September 9, 2012 at 12:46 am | Report abuse |
  2. LDM

    How arrogant are these ministers that they truly believe they have the right to silence anyone who doesn't agree with them? And yet Christians claim they're the persecuted ones?

    September 8, 2012 at 9:40 pm | Report abuse |
    • Layne

      Absolutely agree.

      September 8, 2012 at 9:48 pm | Report abuse |
    • Layne

      Well said. When free speech only applies to speech you agree with, then it isn't really free speech.

      September 8, 2012 at 9:52 pm | Report abuse |
    • cronewinter

      Funny, they didn't get their panties in a wad when TeeBow made his religious gestures and statements.

      September 8, 2012 at 10:16 pm | Report abuse |
    • Nah

      ldm: "How arrogant are these ministers that they truly believe they have the right to silence anyone who doesn't agree with them?"

      Hate Burns all you want, but distorting what he's said makes you look foolish.

      He's not saying he has a right to silence anyone, he's saying that sports players shouldn't voice their opinions because that's not their job.

      You know, the same criticism Liberals and Conservatives hurl at movie actors, other sports players, and so on.

      September 8, 2012 at 10:17 pm | Report abuse |
    • RoadRunner, Albuquerque, NM

      @ Nah: I don't hate burns at all; I just believe that based upon his actions and remarks, he is unfit for public office and for the Christian ministry as well.

      September 8, 2012 at 10:22 pm | Report abuse |
    • banasy©

      Nah:
      What Burns did was write a letter to the Raven's organization telling them to stop Ayanbadejo from expressing his opinion, because he didn't like said opinion and disagreed with it.
      Since when does one's job preclude an opinion they have on other subjects?
      In other words, no one may have an opinion on anything unless it fall within the parameters of what they do for a living?
      I don't think so.

      September 8, 2012 at 10:32 pm | Report abuse |
    • Gack Gack

      Nah, they have a right to express their opinion because they are citizens in a society that guarantees that right. It does not matter what they do for a living. What they do for a living may give them a platform to express their opinion and you may disagree with their opinion. Express yourself, as you seem to have no difficulty doing. Just don't try to limit others opinions. Because, if you are successful in doing so, you may be the next one who is silenced.

      September 9, 2012 at 12:50 am | Report abuse |
  3. reds

    sure bet, gay marriage will be end in maryland in november...smile

    September 8, 2012 at 9:40 pm | Report abuse |
    • mike

      Sure bet me not know English punctuation grammar correct good way so me not no make sense and me yes look dumb.

      September 8, 2012 at 10:23 pm | Report abuse |
  4. the voice of reason

    Burns is an idiot.. I'm ashamed to be from the same state he is.

    September 8, 2012 at 9:43 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Sam

    It's inconceivable that people still think God will save them.

    September 8, 2012 at 9:44 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Layne

    I'm surprised Representative Burns could even type that letter with a sheet over his head.

    September 8, 2012 at 9:46 pm | Report abuse |
  7. timothyclee

    Brendon is a citizen exercising his right to free speech – the fact that he also happens to be right is beside the point

    September 8, 2012 at 9:49 pm | Report abuse |
  8. thechance911

    I am proud of the Ravens player for speaking out for what he thinks is right. Where was this lawmaker/minister Burns when the Chick-Fil-A guys was speaking against gay marriage. Guess that was okay. I don't know what church he ministers in, but it is a shame, because that is NOT Christian!

    September 8, 2012 at 9:53 pm | Report abuse |
  9. sqeptiq

    If the people of Mr Burns' district have anything resembling pride, humanity or patriotism, they will defeat him this election in the largest landslide in electoral history.

    September 8, 2012 at 9:56 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Itzachoice

    The real difference here is that this is not a first ammedment issue but rather one of public decency. If half the US and most of the world view gay behaviour as perverted, why can't someone say "hey NFL, please help us stop the proliferation of perverted messages to our youth through the celebrity created and protected by your organization"? Furthermore, the hatred and intolerence for the biblical as promoted by CNN is frightening. This is the real threat to the American way of life.

    September 8, 2012 at 9:56 pm | Report abuse |
    • rick

      having a hissy fit, little fella?

      the NFL is all about perverted messages

      September 8, 2012 at 9:59 pm | Report abuse |
    • CV

      According to your logic, NFLshould also tell Tebow to stop Jesus posting.

      September 8, 2012 at 10:21 pm | Report abuse |
    • Larry

      Well, Itza, I find you perverted. Does that make you a threat to the American way of life?

      September 8, 2012 at 10:23 pm | Report abuse |
    • sureitis

      If it was merely a citizen making the comment then it would just be two citizens expressing their views and the NFL making the decision to ignore the letter. But this is a politician asking a private organization to silence its employees because he doesn't agree with their viewpoint. I disagreed with how politicians treated Chick-fil-a and this is just as awful. I'm sorry you can't understand that just because you don't like something means you shouldn't have to deal with it or should try to stop its progression. Welcome to tolerance, it's been enforced in the Western world since the eighteenth century. Get on board.

      September 8, 2012 at 10:24 pm | Report abuse |
    • mike

      Wow, another pick and choose which scripture I will follow thumper.

      Why aren't you calling football an abomination? They are clearly touching the skin of a dead animal.

      Why aren't you trying to stone them to death? They are obviously working in the Sabbath.

      Btw, the original text doesn't condemn gay people.

      September 8, 2012 at 10:26 pm | Report abuse |
    • George

      If half the world believed in slavery, does that make it ok? Grow up and learn stuff.

      September 8, 2012 at 10:32 pm | Report abuse |
    • DrTom

      Half the US and most of the world – citation please. I don't think that is correct, but even if it is, that wouldn't make it right. Most people were opposed to "interracial' marriage at one time (I'm not sure how many are now). How do you feel about Blacks and Whites marrying each other?

      September 8, 2012 at 10:50 pm | Report abuse |
    • James PDX

      If you want to see real perversion, read the Bible(s) and some of God's laws. Did you know that God's law used to force r a p e victims to marry their rapists? Knowing this now, do you still think your god is perfect and full of love?

      September 8, 2012 at 11:41 pm | Report abuse |
    • MoodyMoody

      Itzachoice, I believe that you are not from the USA, based on your spelling of "behaviour," instead of the American behavior. So why do you care about this in the first place?

      September 9, 2012 at 12:16 am | Report abuse |
    • DiedrichKyrian

      Itza,

      Actually most of the world is *allowing* two human beings to marry. I refuse to call it gay marriage as if it is seperate "but equal." I think I shall refer to it as two human beings wishing to marry.

      You do realize our lovely neighbor to the north has allowed this to happen for years now?

      And in a previous post. You enjoy your 2nd Amendment? Why cant you allow us to enjoy our *FIRST* Amendment rights? (Again hint, its NOT about Free Speech!)

      September 9, 2012 at 10:02 am | Report abuse |
    • Mop

      hatred and intolerence for the biblical

      I should have seen that one coming.

      September 9, 2012 at 10:38 am | Report abuse |
  11. 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 10:02 pm | Report abuse |
    • Nah

      gad: "Gay marriage is advancing faster than any other civil rights issue in history."

      That you assume, without proving, that marriage is a "civil right" is telling about your partisanship.

      If marriage is a right, then you must support all marriages, right? Or do you believe that this right is only enjoyed by two discrete segments of society - namely, straight and gay couples and no one more?

      "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."

      That you're comparing yourself to the civil rights battles of the 50's and 60's is nothing less than nauseating.

      Gay couples are asking that the state call them by a certain name and give them tax money.

      African-Americans were asking that they not be ly- nched, murdered, segregated, forced out of their homes, terrorized, r- aped, and so on.

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

      Ok, present your argument that gay marriage is NOT a civil right. This should be amusing. And, the basic difference between this civil right battle and the ones that it bothers you to compare this one to is that, well, people like you have already lost those battles.

      September 8, 2012 at 10:19 pm | Report abuse |
    • banasy©

      I agreed with you earlier, and I agree with you now.
      I am firmly on the civil rights side of the issue; let people marry who they want.

      September 8, 2012 at 10:22 pm | Report abuse |
    • Gadflie

      BTW, Nah, I don't have to prove that marriage is a civil right. The Supreme Court has already said so. See Loving V Virginia for details.

      September 8, 2012 at 10:24 pm | Report abuse |
    • mike

      Hey Nah, do you mean to tell me gay people don't get lynched, fired, denied by certain businesses, lose their housing, etc, etc, etc because they are gay?

      Thanks for clearing that up.

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

      Nah – African Americans were asking for the same thing when came to interracial marriage.

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

      gad: "Ok, present your argument that gay marriage is NOT a civil right."

      Sorry, it's not your opposition's job to prove your assertions for you.

      But since we know you won't be forthcoming with a proof, here you go:

      First, you cannot delineate a "right" to marry that is coherent. Why? Because you can't define it.

      If you argue you have a bare right to marry, then anyone can marry any person or any thing they choose. Pol- ygamy, consensual inc- est, and so on will all be justified.

      But because those are "obviously wrong" and shouldn't be allowed, we have to excise them from our definition of marriage. And so only people who are not already married, are not related to each other, are of age, are the same species, etc. may enjoy the "right" to marry.

      Hence, we come out with a "right" to marry that's so riddled with exceptions and qualifications that it starts to look more like a privilege instead.

      Second, because marriage is a privilege it can be given or taken at will. However, it cannot be taken arbitrarily. Hence, if the government has no legitimate interest in withholding marriage from hom- os- exuals, it cannot prevent them from marrying.

      Third, however, the argument goes that "stability" is good for children. Marriage creates stability. The state incentivizes marriage by giving out tax benefits. Consequently, marriage should be opened up to those couples who generally can have children quite accidentally: heteros- exual ones.

      Pretending the issues are simple or easy to figure out shows either that you're an imbecile or a partisan.

      September 8, 2012 at 10:39 pm | Report abuse |
    • Nah

      mike: "Hey Nah, do you mean to tell me gay people don't get lynched, fired, denied by certain businesses, lose their housing, etc, etc, etc because they are gay?"

      Sorry, but gay people are not being beaten in the streets and lynched on every corner. Trying to equate any of the horrible things that have happened to gay people with what African-Americans as a whole endured is beyond dishonest.

      September 8, 2012 at 10:40 pm | Report abuse |
    • Nah

      gad: "BTW, Nah, I don't have to prove that marriage is a civil right. The Supreme Court has already said so. See Loving V Virginia for details."

      Nah. The Supreme Court decided that the state had no legitimate interest in preventing interracial, heteros- exual couples from marrying. It did not declare that there is some general "right to marry".

      GEORGE: 'African-Americans were asking for interracial marriage, it's the same.'

      Ah, yes. African-Americans rightly fought for civil rights, they also fought for marriage. Therefore anyone who fights to marry is fighting for a civil right.

      Does that mean pol- ygamists are fighting for their civil rights as well? After all, they're fighting for marriage too.

      September 8, 2012 at 10:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • Gadflie

      Nah, really? That's the best you can do? ALL civil rights have legal exceptions. Even you must know that. And, I note that you ignored the undeniable fact that the U.S. Supreme Court has already ruled that marriage IS a civil right.

      September 8, 2012 at 10:45 pm | Report abuse |
    • Gadflie

      Nah, I understand that you probably couldn't wade through the entire ruling for Loving V Virgina but, here is the relevant part of the ruling.
      "Marriage is one of the "basic civil rights of man," fundamental to our very existence and survival"
      Now, which part of that don't you understand?

      September 8, 2012 at 10:47 pm | Report abuse |
    • Nah

      gad: "ALL civil rights have legal exceptions."

      Sorry, reading comprehension must not be your strong point. The thrust of those exceptions is that they're unjustified because your belief in a bare "right to marry" justifies marriage between siblings and multiple partners.

      Now if you're honest enough to say that those relationships should be recognized by the state, more power to you. But feebly trying to exclude them from the "right" to marry shows you're just as big a bigot as anyone who opposes gay marriage.

      'The Supreme Court said marriage is a FUNDAMENTAL RIGHT'

      You must not be a lawyer. On the facts of the case the Supreme Court decided only that the state had no legitimate interest in preventing interracial couples from marrying.

      Beyond that, if the Supreme Court has decided - as you wrongly believe - that some general right to marry exists, you'll have to accept the polygamist's argument that he has a right to marry as many women as he pleases.

      Are you willing to do that?

      September 8, 2012 at 10:52 pm | Report abuse |
    • James PDX

      We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights...

      Apparently they aren't self-evident to nah. He must be slow.

      September 8, 2012 at 11:46 pm | Report abuse |
    • James PDX

      I certainly don't have a problem with polygamy. God even has a law where he commands it and once murdered a man who failed to fulfill his duty under the law.

      September 8, 2012 at 11:47 pm | Report abuse |
    • Brett

      I realize that I'm late to the party - and that Nah is likely a troll - but the Loving Court clearly held that marriage is a fundamental right. Loving v. Virginia, 388 U.S. 1, 12 (1967) ('Marriage is one of the 'basic civil rights of man,' fundamental to our very existence and survival."); see also Zablocki v. Redhail, 434 U.S. 374, 383 (1978) ("our past decisions make clear that the right to marry is of fundamental importance"); id at 384 ("Although Loving arose in the context of racial discrimination, prior and subsequent decisions of this Court confirm that the right to marry is of fundamental importance for all individuals.").

      September 9, 2012 at 8:50 am | Report abuse |
  12. the voice of reason

    Burns has got a bad case of foot and mouth disease. You figure it out.

    It's just a good thing both are black. It could have gotten REAL nasty, otherwise.

    September 8, 2012 at 10:06 pm | Report abuse |
    • Isaac

      You are correct there.

      September 9, 2012 at 12:39 pm | Report abuse |
  13. the voice of reason

    "The real difference here is that this is not a first ammedment issue but rather one of public decency"

    Of course it's a free speech issue. Only an idiot would think otherwise.

    September 8, 2012 at 10:19 pm | Report abuse |
  14. George

    Oh sure, Chic-fil-a has freedom of speech, but a professional sports person doesn't when the tides are turned. Make up your minds people, this is our freedom you're all playing with here.

    September 8, 2012 at 10:27 pm | Report abuse |
  15. little mister©

    It's about time that football heroes step out to support gay marriage. My brother in law and I are gay and hope we can get married soon. If anyone cares, we are very conservative Republicans.

    September 8, 2012 at 10:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • Cathy

      Then get that freeloader Alex out of this house. All he does is sit on the computer all day and torments people. I want him gone little mister, he's all yours.

      September 8, 2012 at 10:43 pm | Report abuse |
    • sqeptiq

      You need to rethink your political stance...that's a choice; republicans don't think you should have one.

      September 8, 2012 at 10:44 pm | Report abuse |
    • BDB

      You and your brother-in-law are gay. Wouldn't a brother-in-law either be married to your sister or be your wife's brother? Anyway, unless $$$ is that important to you, I would reconsider being a meber of a political party that hates you and holds you up as a sinner to win votes.

      September 8, 2012 at 10:55 pm | Report abuse |
    • Carlos Segovia

      Yor sister will kill you for ruinng her marriage.In my culture ans country you`re a dead "man"...!

      September 8, 2012 at 11:24 pm | Report abuse |
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