I don’t know from football.
And I’d never heard of Brendon Ayanbadejo until a few days ago. Ayanbadejo is a linebacker for the Baltimore Ravens and an advocate of same-sex marriage. Ayanbadejo, who is heterosexual and a father of two, understands what it’s like not to fit in, and what it’s like not to have the privileges of the majority.
So in 2009 when he felt Barack Obama wasn’t doing enough to advance LGBQ rights, he spoke up, posting his thoughts in “Same Sex Marriages: What’s the Big Deal?” (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/brendon-ayanbadejo/same-sex-marriages-whats_b_190591.html) The premise of his argument is Constitutional, not liberal:
First and foremost, church and state are supposed to be completely separated when it comes to the rule of law in the United States. So the religious argument that God meant for only man and woman to be together has no bearing here! … We are a secular capitalistic democracy. That’s it.
Sound argument, that Constitution.
Maryland State delegate Emmett Burns found Ayanbadejo’s exercise of his first Amendment right “inconceivable,” and so exercised his right to free speech, by writing a letter to Steve Bisciotti owner of the Ravens:
“requesting that [Bisciotti] take the necessary action, as a National Football Franchise Owner, to inhibit such expressions from [his] employee and that [Ayanbadejo] be ordered to cease and desist such injurious actions. I know of no other NFL player who has done what Mr. Ayambadejo [sic] is doing” (http://sports.yahoo.com/news/nfl–maryland-politician%E2%80%99s-letter-denouncing-brendon-ayanbadejo%E2%80%99s-support-of-gay-marriage.html;_ylt=AnKGJ_4ZZlaJPpFIIrAZDW1N7Ox_;_ylu=X3oDMTFycW9yNjU4BG1pdANBUlRJQ0xFIEFydGljbGUgQm9keQRwb3MDNgRzZWMDTWVkaWFBcnRpY2xlQm9keUFzc2VtYmx5;_ylg=X3oDMTJ2YjUxdGhhBGludGwDdXMEbGFuZwNlbi11cwRwc3RhaWQDYmEyYTgxMzgtNmJiMC0zNjhhLWJiYTYtOTQwODc1YWE1MmRmBHBzdGNhdANob21lfGV4cGVydHMEcHQDc3RvcnlwYWdl;_ylv=3).
First of all, Mr. Burns, spell a person’s name correctly, OK?
Secondly, yes, that’s the point: that “no other NFL player” had done what Ayanbadejo did!
Burns’ rationale was that “[m]any… 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 believe Mr. Ayanbadejo should concentrate on football and steer clear of dividing the fan base.”
Really? Well, Burns ended up doing some dividing of his own, eliciting among other responses (including Bisciotti’s unconditional support of Ayanbadejo and his right to free speech), this fabulous response from Minnesota Vikings punter Chris Kluwe. By “fabulous,” I mean that Kluwe is articulate, reasoned and at times effectively blunt in expressing his support of Ayanbadejo and same-sex marriage. Kluwe opens:
I find it inconceivable that you are an elected official of Maryland’s state government. 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. 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)…(http://deadspin.com/5941348/they-wont-magically-turn-you-into-a-lustful-)
His argument, which includes such highlights as “Holy fucking shitballs. Did you seriously just say that…” concludes:
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. 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?
In closing, I would like to say that I hope this letter, in some small way, causes you to reflect upon the magnitude of the colossal foot in mouth clusterfuck you so brazenly unleashed on a man whose only crime was speaking out for something he believed in. Best of luck in the next election; I’m fairly certain you might need it.
Actually, Kluwe adds a P.S. in which he notes that he, too, had spoken out in support of gay rights before this whole incident. I encourage you to read it, and the whole note for yourself.
And perhaps, like me, you’ll be thinking about your own response and responsibility next time you have the opportunity to be an advocate, an ally, an empathizer (because, like Ayanbadejo, we all know what it’s like to be different and treated as less than because of it) and someone who has the privilege of freedom of speech.
**Thanks every so much to EB for the link.