Brendan Ayanbadejo married his wife, Natalee, in 2003, and the couple have three children. But during his 10 NFL seasons, Ayanbadejo became one of the league’s first — and most — outspoken advocates for equal rights for the LGBTQ+ community.
So Ayanbadejo, who last played in 2012, applauded from the sideline when Raiders defensive end Carl Nassib came out as gay Monday.
“Carl seems like the right guy to carry the torch,” Ayanbadejo told Ryan Mink of the Ravens’ team website Wednesday. “He’s an established guy. He’s a veteran player. I think he’s the perfect candidate to normalize what a gay male in the NFL is.”
In 2014, Michael Sam became the first openly gay player ever drafted, but he never played a regular-season game. Nassib has played 73 games in five seasons, making him the first active player ever to come out as gay.
NFL players, former players, the NFL, the Raiders and many other NFL teams have tweeted their support of Nassib.
“I think we have to take the approach that it matters until it doesn’t matter anymore,” Ayanbadejo said. “We get more progressive and more accepting as times goes by. I think we’re trying to go from a point of tolerance to acceptance. They are two very different things.
“Like with Jackie Robinson being the first Black player in the MLB, Carl is going to be the first openly gay player to play in a regular-season game. Hopefully, we get to a point where it doesn’t even register, but we’re not there yet. These watershed moments, we have to celebrate and acknowledge them. Hopefully in 10 years, if there are a bunch of guys that are gay, we don’t even talk about it. Maybe it’s 10 years or maybe it’s one year. I don’t know, but the sooner the better.”
Ayanbadejo now has his own company, West Coast Fitness, which operates 55 Orangetheory Fitness locations mostly in California.