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Maryland

NFL player responds to lawmaker’s demand that he stops supporting marriage equality

Friday, September 7, 2012

Brendon Ayanbadejo, a linebacker for the NFL’s Baltimore Ravens, on Friday responded to a Maryland lawmaker who demanded that he “cease and desist” his support for marriage equality, and expressed surprise that a politician would try to stifle his free speech.

Brendon Ayanbadejo

Last week, Maryland General Assembly Delegate Emmett C. Burns sent a letter to Ravens’ owner Steve Bisciotti, denouncing Ayanbadejo’s support of same-sex marriage, requesting that the Ravens “take the necessary action … to inhibit such expressions from your employees.”

Burns’ complaint is in response to Ayanbadejo’s ongoing support for marriage equality; last year, Ayanbadejo appeared in a video campaign of high profile Marylanders aimed at building support for same-sex marriage legislation in Maryland. The bill eventually passed in the state legislature, was signed by Gov. Martin O’Malley, and will now be decided by voters in a ballot referendum on November 6.

In his letter, written on official Maryland House of Delegates stationary, Burns wrote:

Emmett Burns


“As a Delegate to the Maryland General Assembly and a Baltimore Ravens Football 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 another. 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. I believe Mr. Ayanbadejo should concentrate on football and stand clear of diving the fan base.

“I am requesting that you take the necessary action, as a National Football Franchise Owner, to inhibit such expressions for your employee 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.”

Ayanbadejo said Friday that he is surprised that a lawmaker would suggest taking away his right to free speech.

“I was surprised. 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.

Ayanbadejo, 36, was one of the first pro athletes to stand up for marriage equality publicly when, in an April 2009 column in the Huffington Post, he wrote: “If Britney Spears can party it up in Vegas with one of her boys and go get married on a whim and annul her marriage the next day, why can’t a loving same-sex couple tie the knot?”

“Its an equality issue,” Ayanbadejo said. “I see the big picture.”

Burns, a Democrat from Baltimore County, is founder and pastor of Rising Sun First Baptist Church, and has been a frequent and high-profile critic of same-sex marriage. When President Barack Obama expressed his support for marriage equality, Burns said he would drop his support for Obama’s candidacy.

A statement released by the Ravens team president Dick Cass, said, “We support Brendon’s right to freedom of speech under the First Amendment.”

Update: Minnesota Vikings punter Chris Kluwe — also a supporter of marriage equality — has his own harsh words for Burns, and in an open letter posted on Deadspin, called Burns an “Asshole” and his comments a “colossal foot in mouth clusterfuck.” Read more

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48 more reader comments:

  1. Amazing

    Posted on Friday, September 7, 2012 at 12:47pm
  2. Good for him…Thanks!

    Posted on Friday, September 7, 2012 at 12:48pm
  3. Good. I am so tired of the hypocrisy.

    Posted on Friday, September 7, 2012 at 12:49pm
  4. Awesome

    Posted on Friday, September 7, 2012 at 12:50pm
  5. Way to go Brendon for not backing down

    Posted on Friday, September 7, 2012 at 12:50pm
  6. Kudos man, good luck and here’s to a prosperous life for you!

    Posted on Friday, September 7, 2012 at 12:50pm
  7. Been using that Britney analogy for years…sacred my ass

    Posted on Friday, September 7, 2012 at 12:51pm
  8. Ppl need to stop all this hate let ppl love who they love it is none of there buisnis to say u cant love some one

    Posted on Friday, September 7, 2012 at 12:51pm
  9. That is disgusting!!! I’m appalled! I don’t understand why politicians are doing the stupidest things in 2012. Folks need to stop worrying about what others are doing in their private lives and worry about running the damned country! DO YOUR JOBS! Ugh! Crime? Abuse? Displaced Families? Where were they when you took so much time to write your stupid letter? Oh, that’s right … surviving with nothing. SMDH

    Posted on Friday, September 7, 2012 at 12:52pm
  10. Way to go Ravens. Stand up to the bully!

    Posted on Friday, September 7, 2012 at 12:52pm
  11. I’m totally embarassed as a Marylander that this Delegate got voted into ANY office –Has this dude even read the Constitution? Not only a homophobe, but a dumbass on top of it all.

    Oh wait, those two words mean the same thing anyway

    Posted on Friday, September 7, 2012 at 12:53pm
  12. Posted on Friday, September 7, 2012 at 12:53pm
  13. OMG. I can but cannot believe this.

    Posted on Friday, September 7, 2012 at 12:54pm
  14. Rep. Burns has forgotten what it was like to fight for equal rights.

    Posted on Friday, September 7, 2012 at 12:56pm
  15. Before I can respond, I’ll need to read the article. I’m not comfortable registering for a site to do it.

    Posted on Friday, September 7, 2012 at 12:57pm
  16. If you know anyone who lives in Maryland, tell them you know someone they should NOT vote for! This lawmaker wrote to the NFL team owner strongly suggesting that he muffle one of the team’s players; that is, take away his right to free speech! This is a Maryland lawmaker making this demand! Incredible!

    Posted on Friday, September 7, 2012 at 12:57pm
  17. O here we go again, just like it was with the Military, as long as people LGBT and/or supporters shut up about and “not upset the fan base, who are mostly against it” Hmmm seems like Mr Burns is showing his TRUE colors. wow.

    Posted on Friday, September 7, 2012 at 12:57pm
  18. John, thanks for your link as well! Loved it!

    Posted on Friday, September 7, 2012 at 1:01pm
  19. “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 another.” UM, YOU’RE TRYING TO SWAY OPINION BY STIFLING HIS.

    Posted on Friday, September 7, 2012 at 1:02pm
  20. Posted on Friday, September 7, 2012 at 1:02pm
  21. Rep Burns doesn’t seem to care about anyone else’s struggles for civil rights. He’s of the “I got mine, sucks to be you” mob.

    Posted on Friday, September 7, 2012 at 1:02pm
  22. Has Emmett Burns no knowledge of the First Amendment?

    Posted on Friday, September 7, 2012 at 1:08pm
  23. Emmett Burns is sad that his opinion shows what kind of a Bigot he is…

    Posted on Friday, September 7, 2012 at 1:08pm
  24. Burn should be remove from office for trying to misuse his position as a legislator. He not only was in the wrong but he is not upholding the constitution in two areas. Freedom of speech separation of church and state. He Man is not fit to hold office!

    Posted on Friday, September 7, 2012 at 1:10pm
  25. Omg.

    Posted on Friday, September 7, 2012 at 1:15pm
  26. I’m wondering if Burns got as indignant about the Catholic Church in New York publicizing an blatant flat out endorsement of Mitt Romney in its Sunday bulletin, distributed at Mass last Sunday.

    Posted on Friday, September 7, 2012 at 1:16pm
  27. New ravens fan here!!!

    Posted on Friday, September 7, 2012 at 1:21pm
  28. that church could loose its tax-free status…someone should look into a law suit

    Posted on Friday, September 7, 2012 at 1:21pm
  29. Just saying to Maryland & Minnesota… Remember to vote in November! Massachusetts has had same-gender marriage legal since November 2003. Its been nearly nine years. The sky hasn’t fallen at any point in time, during that time. I know because I’ve been a resident here the whole time! Proud of my, First State in the Nation to legalize marriage for everyone!

    Posted on Friday, September 7, 2012 at 1:33pm
  30. that judge needs to be fired, his objectivity is seriously compromised and using his job as a means to push his opinion? unforgivable…

    Posted on Friday, September 7, 2012 at 1:35pm
  31. You go Brendon!!! Not a Ravens fan, personally, but they have earned my respect for upholding the first amendment. Rep. Burns should be removed from office!!!

    Posted on Friday, September 7, 2012 at 1:43pm
  32. So uhm tell me how a lawmaker can demand that somebody change their support for something? Uhm uhm uhm I’m waiting for a logical response.. Wait there isn’t one./

    Posted on Friday, September 7, 2012 at 1:53pm
  33. God Bless and Keep Brendon Safe and Secure… may his voice of truth, wisdom, social justice and marriage equality continue to Ring LOUD and Strong… God may his popularity and his success on and off the football field to rise exponentially. Thank you on behalf of marriage equality, social justice. Blessings, Jerry Lail

    Posted on Friday, September 7, 2012 at 1:56pm
  34. maryland should have open he serve the people ll the people.

    Posted on Friday, September 7, 2012 at 2:24pm
  35. Brendon don’t back down! We all are thankful and proud of your support!

    Posted on Friday, September 7, 2012 at 2:35pm
  36. That’s F’N ridiculous. I live in Maryland, like the Ravens, sports, and I’m a lesbian who is for marriage. So what? I shouldn’t have a job? Can people of different beliefs not play sports or work? He should be ashamed of himself

    Posted on Friday, September 7, 2012 at 2:36pm
  37. Mr. Burns needs to remember that once upon a time his race of people didn’t have freedom. Many people fought and died for the freedom that he has. Now it’s time to stand up and fight for equality for ALL human beings. How dare he have the brass to perpetuate discrimination and hate!!!!!

    Posted on Friday, September 7, 2012 at 2:36pm
  38. What the hell ever happened to FREEDOM OF SPEECH????

    Posted on Friday, September 7, 2012 at 2:40pm
  39. Brendon, you da man!!! Legalize Love!!!

    Posted on Friday, September 7, 2012 at 2:47pm
  40. Posted on Friday, September 7, 2012 at 2:49pm
  41. Burns needs to read the first amendement if he doesn’t know what free speech is. just wrong.

    Posted on Friday, September 7, 2012 at 2:51pm
  42. Homophobia and hypocrisy in full swing.

    Posted on Friday, September 7, 2012 at 2:59pm
  43. Brendon was much nicer in his response than I would have been. I’d have told that hateful MoFo to eat shit and die!

    Posted on Friday, September 7, 2012 at 4:24pm
  44. As a Raven fan and lgbt myself I support him and the Ravens as well as the fact that both the organization and Brendon have no issue with voicing marriage equality or gay rights. That to me is important my team accept me just as they would accept a player who came out as well. Thank you Brendon and thank you Ravens for supporting lgbt rights and equality!

    Posted on Friday, September 7, 2012 at 4:49pm
  45. i’ve never been into football but now i’m a fan of two players.

    Posted on Friday, September 7, 2012 at 6:12pm
  46. Dang it! I don’t want to like any Raven, but I don’t see any Steelers stepping up for equality.

    Posted on Friday, September 7, 2012 at 6:26pm
  47. That’s wrong

    Posted on Saturday, September 8, 2012 at 5:18am
  48. Wow…as a Baptist, he should be ashamed of himself.

    Posted on Saturday, September 8, 2012 at 5:30am