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NFL, players respond to Maryland legislator’s efforts to curtail player’s support for marriage equality

By Megan Carpentier
Friday, September 7, 2012 19:41 EDT
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[Image via Keith Allison on Flickr, Creative Commons licensed]
 
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A Maryland delegate who voted against legalizing same sex marriage in the state is under fire after he wrote the owner of the Baltimore Ravens demanding that the team stop one of its players from voicing support for marriage equality. The state passed legislation legalizing same sex marriage in February 2012, but opponents submitted enough signatures to get the issue on the ballot in November. Recent polls show a majority of Marylanders now support its legalization

Baltimore Ravens linebacker Brendan Ayanbadejo has long been a supporter of marriage equality in Maryland, even appearing in a web video in 2011, which apparently only recently came to the attention of marriage equality opponent Delegate Emmett Burns (D), a Baptist minister. Burns fired off an official letter on his Delegate office stationery to Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti demanding that the team take action to end Ayanbadejo’s support for the issue.

It read, in part:

Many of your fans are opposed to such a view [on same sex marriage] and feel it has no place in a sport that is strictly for pride, entertainment and excitement. I believe Mr. Ayanbadejo should concentrate on football and steer clear of dividing the fan base.

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.

Ayanbadejo responded to the news on Twitter, saying “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!!!” He then told the team’s website, “For him to be a delegate, I was kind of shocked that he would want to silence me and tell me to stick to football in a free country. People have died to have those rights to be able to voice those opinions – no matter what their opinions are.”

The Ravens, for their part, say they plan to respond to Burns, and Ravens President Dick Cass told the site, “We support Brendon’s right to freedom of speech under the First Amendment.” According to Ayanbadejo, Cass also expressed his personal support. “Dick personally told me, ‘We’re not an organization that discriminates,’” he told the site.

Minnesota Vikings punter Chris Kluwe took to Twitter last night to express his disgust for Burns’ letter in a series of posts:

Holy crap. I leave Twitter for a couple hours and I come back to find this garbage? This guy is literally an asshole.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 yes, I’m referring to the politician, though to call him that denigrates the few politicians that still deserve the name. 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 that gets me seriously angry, but that’s one of the few things on the list. Demand better from your government. Demand better from yourself.

Today, Kluwe expanded on his thoughts in an open letter to Burns published on the sports site Deadspin in which he castigated the politician for attempting to curtail Ayanbadejo’s free speech rights and Burns’ ahistorical analysis that sports players do not get involved in civil rights issues before getting more scatological.

If gay marriage becomes legal, are you worried that all of a sudden you’ll start thinking about penis? “Oh shit. Gay marriage just passed. Gotta get me some of that hot dong action!” Will all of your friends suddenly turn gay and refuse to come to your Sunday Ticket grill-outs? (Unlikely, since gay people enjoy watching football too.)

I can assure you 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.

Kluwe’s postscript read, “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.”

[Image via Keith Allison on Flickr, Creative Commons licensed]

Megan Carpentier
Megan Carpentier is the executive editor of Raw Story. She previously served as an associate editor at Talking Points Memo; the editor of news and politics at Air America; an editor at Jezebel.com; and an associate editor at Wonkette. Her published works include pieces for the Washington Post, the Washington Independent, Ms Magazine, RH Reality Check, the Women's Media Center, On the Issues, the New York Press, Bitch and Women's eNews.
 
 
 
 
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