Last week, a Maryland politician called for the Ravens to muzzle linebacker Brendan Ayanbadejo’s support of gay marriage. On Wednesday, the guy who runs the sport said that players never will be asked to keep quiet about their beliefs.
“I think in this day and age, people are going to speak up about what they think is important,” Goodell said Wednesday, via the St. Paul Pioneer Press. “They speak as individuals, and that’s an important part of democracy.”
At a time when so many players and fans look for any reason to complain about the Commissioner (unless and until they meet him, and then it’s all smiles and handshakes), he deserves praise for his position.
He’s gotten it from Vikings punter Chris Kluwe, who spoke out loudly (and profanely) in support of Ayanbadejo last week.
“I think it’s great that Commissioner Goodell is backing our right to speak out on issues that are important to us (and thank you for not fining me for the whiteboard stuff, and the ref stuff, and the bounty stuff, and anything else I did),” Kluwe said in an email to the Pioneer Press. “In my eyes, one of the things that makes the NFL so great is that it’s inclusive rather than exclusive. No matter your race, creed, religion, and hopefully soon your sexuality, the main question is ‘Can you play on Sunday?’ Gay players can play just as well as anyone else.”
And it’s not just the Commissioner who is encouraging people to speak out. “I was not silenced,” Ayanbadejo told the Pioneer Press. “In fact, what happened instead was pretty amazing — thousands of people joined me and spoke out in support of marriage equality. I even received messages from Steelers fans! Instead of being silenced, my team and my league stood with me in support.”
That’s the most important point here. Regardless of our beliefs, we all have a right to express them. While certain topics could jeopardize a player’s endorsement deals (which necessarily are tied to behaviors that make a player more and/or less popular), it never should jeopardize in any way a person’s NFL employment.