Ravens linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo said Friday he was “surprised,” to hear a local politician’s effort to get the Ravens to keep him from speaking in favor of gay marriage.
Maryland House of Delegates member Emmett C. Burns Jr. sent a letter to Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti saying he was “appalled and aghast” by Ayanbadejo’s stance on the issue and urged Bisciotti to silence him.
“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,” Ayanbadejo said, via Matt Vensel of the Baltimore Sun.
Ayanbadejo said team president Dick Cass stopped him to tell him the team supported him, and that the team was planning to draft a letter to Burns.
The team issued a statement from Cass which said: “We support Brendon’s right to freedom of speech under the First Amendment.”
“He [said], ‘We’re in support of you, and it’s good that you’re able to voice your opinion and say how you feel,’” Ayanbadejo said. “But Dick personally told me that we’re not an organization that discriminates and he was telling me how he was on Pro Football Talk and he was reading all the comments that people have said and he was overwhelmingly surprised and happy to see that football fans were supporting me and what I said. He told me that I should go there and I should read it.”
Ayanbadejo has been an advocate for gay marriage since 2008, and views it as a civil rights issue.
“I just thought it was important because it’s an equality issue. I see the big picture,” Ayanbadejo said. “You know, there was a time when women didn’t have rights, black people didn’t have rights, and right now, gay rights is a big issue and it has been for a long time. And so we’re slowly chopping down the barriers to equality.
“We have some minority rights we have to get straight and some gay rights, then we’ll be on our way — because ultimately, the goal is to be the best country that we can be and we’re always evolving. You just look back to where we came from, and we’ve come a long way, but we still have a ways to go.”
Whether you agree with Ayanbadejo’s politics or not, his willingness to give voice to his opinions is admirable. Too many athletes take the safe way out, for fear of angering any small slice of the public (like Michael Jordan’s “Republicans buy shoes too,” rationale for not endorsing political candidates).
And whether you agree with Burns or not, you would hope any degree of elected official would have paid just a little more attention in Civics class.