NFL Player’s Pro Gay Marriage Stance Becomes Political Football
Same sex marriage hit the gridiron this week in an exchange between an elected Democratic official and a number of NFL players. And it is a divide that articulates the changing demographics in the culture wars.
The latest volley began when Baltimore Ravens linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo, a former Canadian Football League player and three-time Pro Bowler for the Chicago Bears, contributed a pair of tickets to a fundraiser for Marylanders for Marriage Equality. This upset Maryland Del. Emmett C. Burns Jr., a Democrat from Baltimore County, who sent a letter, dated August 29, 2012, to Ravens owner Steve Biscotti. Burns wrote "I find it inconceivable that one of your players, Mr. Brendon Ayanbadejo, would publicly endorse Same-Sex marriage, specifically as a Ravens football player."
"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," wrote Burns, "and try to sway public opinion one way or another.
"I am requesting that you take the necessary action, as a National Football League Owner, to inhibit such expressions from your employees 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 2009 Ayanbadejo, who joined Ravens in 2008, wrote a column for the Huff Post supporting same sex marriage.
"Maybe I am a man ahead of my time," he wrote. "However, looking at the former restrictions on human rights in our country starting with slavery, women not being able to vote, blacks being counted as two thirds of a human, segregation, no gays in the military (to list a few) all have gone by the wayside. But now here in 2009 same sex marriages are prohibited. I think we will look back in 10, 20, 30 years and be amazed that gays and lesbians did not have the same rights as every one else. How did this ever happen in the land of the free and the home of the brave? Are we really free?"
On Friday the Baltimore Sun published Ayanbadejo response to Burns’ letter.
"I was surprised. Just what our country was founded on, for someone to try to take that away from me, I was pretty surprised that something like that would come up, especially from a politician."
The Sun reported that members of the Ravens organization, including team president Dick Cass, offered words of support to Ayanbadejo on Friday at the Under Armour Performance Center. " A few gave him a high-five."
Burns, an opponent of same-sex marriage, told The Sun on Friday that Ayanbadejo, as a "public person representing a public team," should avoid commenting on social issues.
"Football is the most masculine sport there is out there, and same-sex marriage goes against that as far as I’m concerned," he said. "I think it’s best that a football player leaves that alone."
The Ravens linebacker also said that while no other delegates have criticized his action, he has received much support from the public - including other NFL players - on Facebook and Twitter.
"Surprisingly, Steelers fans, Patriots fans, Bengals fans, Cowboys fans, people who don’t even watch the NFL have all sent me messages saying that, ’I now have a reason to watch football or even cheer for the Ravens because of your support for equality,’ so that feels good," the Sun reported.
Easily the most outspoken supporter is Minnesota Vikings punter Chris Kluwe, who sent a number of colorful tweets:
"Holy crap. I leave Twitter for a couple hours and I come back to find this garbage? ... This guy is literally an asshole."
A minute later, he added: "The only way I can fathom spewing that type of shit out of your mouth is if your colon reversed flow and you vomited actual fecal matter."
And finished with: "It honestly baffles me that in this day and age, someone can think stifling another’s right to free speech is somehow ok. There’s not a lot."
Kluwe went on to write a lengthy letter to Burns that chided the elected official for his stifling of free speech and assured him that "that gay people getting married will have zero effect on your life. They won’t come into your house and steal your children. They won’t magically turn you into a lustful cockmonster. They won’t even overthrow the government in an orgy of hedonistic debauchery because all of a sudden they have the same legal rights as the other 90 percent of our population-rights like Social Security benefits, child care tax credits, Family and Medical Leave to take care of loved ones, and COBRA healthcare for spouses and children. You know what having these rights will make gays? Full-fledged American citizens just like everyone else, with the freedom to pursue happiness and all that entails. Do the civil-rights struggles of the past 200 years mean absolutely nothing to you?"
He concluded: "P.S. I’ve also been vocal as hell about the issue of gay marriage so you can take your ’I know of no other NFL player who has done what Mr. Ayanbadejo is doing’ and shove it in your close-minded, totally lacking in empathy piehole and choke on it. Asshole."
The Sun contacted NFL Players Association president Domonique Foxworth to comment on the snafu. He said "he was disappointed by the letter and called the delegate’s request ’asinine.’ He said the union will always stand by players who use their platform to voice opinions, even if they go against what others believe.
"’I don’t think football players are different from any other human beings, with the exception of having a larger platform,’ said Foxworth, who played for the Ravens from 2009 to 2011. ’I think that’s all the reason to speak out. Whether people agree with what you’re saying or not, it’s your right to say it. I don’t think any social issues have been solved by silencing one group.’"