Bigotry is ugly, no matter its source, and being a Democrat does not make you immune. We have all seen that from time to time. Maryland house of delegates member Emmett C. Burns, a Democrat, became upset when he learned that Ravens linebacker Brendon Ayanbedejo, a ten-year veteran and two-time pro-bowler, advocates marriage equality. Mr. Burns was not satisfied engaging in a public debate on the issue.
Instead, he took the extraordinary measure of trying to have Mr. Ayanbedejo silence by team ownership by appealing behind the scenes to the owner, Steven Biscotti. He demanded that Mr. Biscotti order his linebacker to “cease and desist” his “injurious actions.”
As a Delegate to the Maryland General Assembly and a Baltimore Ravens Footbal fan, I find it inconceivable that one of your players, Mr. Brendon Ayanbadejo would publicly endorse Same-Sex marriage, specifically as a Raven Football player. Many of my constituents and your football supporters are appalled and aghast that a member of the Ravens Football Team would step into this controversial divide and try to sway public opinion one way or the other.
Many of your fans are opposed to such a view and feel it has no place in a sport that is strictly for pride, entertainment and excitement,” Burns continued. “I believe Mr. Ayanbadejo should concentrate on football and steer clear of dividing the fan base.
I am requesting that you take the necessary action, as a National Football League Owner, to inhibit such expressions from your employees and that he be ordered to cease and desist such injurious actions. I know of no other NFL player who has done what Mr. Ayanbadejo is doing.
Clearly what is informing Mr. Burns’ opinion is not his Democratic ideology but his religion. Mr. Burns is not only a politician but a Baptist minister, an odd combination if ever there was one.
Mr. Ayanbadejo responded with a tweet: Football is just my job it’s not who I am. I am an American before anything. And just like every American I have the right to speak!!!”
And indeed he does. The Ravens agreed. Ravens President Dick Cass said on the Ravens’ website, “We support Brendon’s right to freedom of speech under the First Amendment,” and Ayanbadejo said Cass gave him a personal boost by telling him, “We’re not an organization that discrminates.”
But the true champion in all this is Minnesota punter Chris Kluwe, who slammed Mr. Burns on twitter and in an open letter published on Deadspin.
On Twitter, Mr. Kluwe said (read in reverse-order):
Chris Kluwe’s open letter is a must-read. He told Mr. Burns that marriage equality would not turn Burns into a “lustful cockmonster”:
If gay marriage becomes legal, are you worried that all of a sudden you’ll start thinking about penis? “Oh shit. Gay marriage just passed. Gotta get me some of that hot dong action!” Will all of your friends suddenly turn gay and refuse to come to your Sunday Ticket grill-outs? (Unlikely, since gay people enjoy watching football too.)
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.
The Minnesota punter’s “P.S.” was memorable: “I’ve also been vocal as hell about the issue of gay marriage so you can take your ‘I know of no other NFL player who has done what Mr. Ayanbadejo is doing’ and shove it in your close-minded, totally lacking in empathy piehole and choke on it. Asshole.”
As Greg Rosenthal wrote on NFL.com’s Around the League, “Burns’ letter comes across as a cynical, short-sighted plea for attention…This whole story leaves us a little speechless.”
Fortunately, neither Mr. Ayanbadejo nor Mr. Kluwe were left speechless. Fortunately, the Baltimore Ravens stood by their player. So did the NFL Players Association (NFLPA), reported the Baltimore Sun on Friday. The NFL has a conservative reputation, and a reputation for being homophobic. This might be changing. Ayanbadejo’s support from his teammates can be taken as evidence of that shift in thinking, and Chris Kluwe wrote a clean version of his Deadspin letter to be published in the St. Paul Pioneer Press and appeared on KARE-11, the Twin Cities’ NBC affiliate:
On Friday night he appeared on the Ed Show:
This is a timely debate because as pointed out in the New York Times,
Minnesota and Maryland are among four states that will have same-sex marriage votes this November. In Maryland, Maine and Washington, the legalization of same-sex marriage will be on the ballot. In Minnesota, there will be a vote on an antigay marriage constitutional amendment that, if passed, would define marriage as a union between a man and a woman.
It is heartening in this age of oppression of freedom by religious conservatives, to see such an outpouring of support for those who champion our First Amendment rights. I have said here many times that Christian ideology is contrary to the principles of a modern liberal democracy, and nothing makes that point better than Mr. Burns’ anti-American actions.