So much for sports figures steering clear of potentially controversial topics.
A handful of NFL players have embraced the issue of gay marriage, and as the constitutionality of California’s ban moves this week toward formal consideration by the U.S. Supreme Court, two of them have made the case on high-profile platforms.
Ravens linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo appeared Sunday on Face the Nation to explains that, in his view, gay marriage provides the next frontier in the battle for equality.
“This is something I’ve been speaking about since 2009,” Ayanbadejo said, via Politico. “In my opinion it’s just the evolution of civil rights and equal rights. Athletes do a lot to change society and this is something we can make a big difference. It starts with bullying and kids in elementary school and goes all the way to the legislative, and treating everybody equally. . . .
“This is a fight that myself and a bunch of my colleagues want to take on and we feel like everybody should be treated equally. We’re not going to stop until everyone is treated fairly.”
Free-agent linebacker Scott Fujita made the case for acceptance in a New York Times op-ed. Fujita also addressed the question of whether athletes should be involved in controversies of this nature.
“[W]e’re people first, and football players a distant second,” Fujita wrote. “Football is a big part of what we do, but a very small part of who we are. And historically, sports figures like Jackie Robinson, Billie Jean King and Muhammad Ali have been powerful agents for social change. That’s why the messages athletes send — including the way they treat others and the words they use — can influence many people, especially children.”
Of course, some people will never be influenced. But many could be, and those are the persons to whom Ayanbadejo, Fujita, Vikings punter Chris Kluwe, and others are directing the message of equality and acceptance.