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. jsim

    Applaud, applaud, applaud!!! Mr. Ayanbadejo has every right to his opinion. What kind of civil servant is Mr. Burns, Jr. if he can not accept that? Agree with it or not, you have to respect it.

    September 8, 2012 at 11:51 pm | Report abuse |
  2. danielle

    america – land of the free and home of the brave....thank you Mr. Ayanbadejo for supporting equality for everyone!!

    September 9, 2012 at 12:09 am | Report abuse |
  3. et al

    Bigotry goes both ways

    September 9, 2012 at 12:14 am | Report abuse |
    • Michael

      Well, it definitely is common for social conservatives these days to accuse defenders of gay rights of being bigots (they can't really deny being bigots themselves, so the "takes one to know one" is about as mature of a comeback or defense as they can muster). However, what you will see is notably absent among those in favor of gay rights is calling for conservatives to be killed by the gov't, or saying we should kick them out of the military, blaming major natural disasters on them, etc. But saying all of that about gays is par for the course among conservative leaders.

      September 9, 2012 at 1:12 am | Report abuse |
  4. ruemorgue

    Freedom of Speech - that a *law* maker would deny this is grounds for an immediate recall election or investigation by the FBI for abuse of power.

    September 9, 2012 at 12:19 am | Report abuse |
  5. No Drama Pls

    Unless Ayanbadejo's contract explicitly has provisions that curtail his speech while an employee, they don't have a leg to stand on.
    Unless it's in his contract, they have ZERO business even saying anything against this guy. He has American free speech rights in this country, but if he signed away some of those rights in his contract, he's the one in the wrong.

    There are answers to this problem. Legal ones. A flame war is no way to settle this.

    September 9, 2012 at 12:19 am | Report abuse |
  6. E

    Chris Kluwe's letter to Burns was absolutely brilliant and priceless. If you haven't read it, you must.

    September 9, 2012 at 12:28 am | Report abuse |
  7. -Fat Racist- (R-Ohio)"Pansies are flowers too"

    Tackle or Kill
    I don't get it. Linebackers come onto the playing field with pantyhose and a pushup bra?

    September 9, 2012 at 12:30 am | Report abuse |
    • sam stone

      If that is the way you want to imagine it, go for it

      September 9, 2012 at 10:19 am | Report abuse |
    • Fearless Freep

      Stop drooling on your keyboard.

      September 9, 2012 at 10:53 am | Report abuse |
    • Mitzi

      Can you tell me, Fat Racist, where he stated he himself was gay? Your name should incude Bigot.

      September 9, 2012 at 4:24 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Ticktockman0

    Good for Ayanbadejo and Kluwe for standing up for the rights of their fellow Americans. Burns and people like him should be ashamed of themselves, but apparently lack the human decency necessary to do so. Not to be condescending, but when athletes have a better grasp of freedom and the First Amendment than a civil servant, it seems to me we need better civil servants.

    September 9, 2012 at 12:41 am | Report abuse |
  9. ManTex


    September 9, 2012 at 12:42 am | Report abuse |
  10. BEEZY

    i do not support gay marriage at all. with that being said i support this guys freedom of speech and respect his opinion. what this one dude did (sorry cant remember his name) trying to silence him is literally un-american. however, to u people who are up in arms about this guy saying what he said and getting mad that the other guy wants him to stop talking, dont get mad and try and shut tim tebo up either. sorry if my comment is a little confusing. its late and i am tired.

    September 9, 2012 at 12:47 am | Report abuse |
    • T

      Tim Tebow hasn't said anything worth paying attention to.

      September 9, 2012 at 7:19 am | Report abuse |
  11. mmi16

    Burn Burns

    September 9, 2012 at 12:53 am | Report abuse |
  12. mmi16

    One question –

    How many 'straights' are being forced into a gay marriage against their will?

    September 9, 2012 at 12:54 am | Report abuse |
    • Jock Catchaball

      You gays have destroyed my marriage.
      I just filed for divorce from my wife.
      You should see the little blond im banging now.

      September 9, 2012 at 10:58 am | Report abuse |
    • Mitzi

      @Jock: Is he cute?

      September 9, 2012 at 4:12 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Dale Lerch

    Bravo to Mr. Ayanbadejo! If Mr. Tebow can espouse his religious views and be appauded by Mr. Burns, then Mr. Burns should keep his bigotry to himself. In retrospect, the Maryland voters now know what Mr. Burns stands for (bigotry and stifling free-speech) and should vote him out of office! Maryland deserves better lawmakers than this.

    September 9, 2012 at 1:16 am | Report abuse |
  14. Liberatus

    Awesome. Nothing else to say. Ayanbadejo Is my new hero.

    September 9, 2012 at 1:43 am | Report abuse |
    • Joey

      I am happy to see a guy like Ayanbadejo standing up for what he believes is right...and not letting this jerk of a politician push him around. It is also nice to see the Ravens are backing him. I will be paying attention to this team from now on.

      September 9, 2012 at 2:37 am | Report abuse |
    • Sue

      i'm so glad he did this. thank you to him for standing up for gay marriage equality.

      September 9, 2012 at 3:45 am | Report abuse |
  15. jack

    Brendon and Chris are stand up guys. They are smart enough to know that gay people marrying doesn't threaten them. I can't imagine anyone threatening Brendon. He is muscle on muscle. Built like a building.

    September 9, 2012 at 1:53 am | Report abuse |
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