Baltimore Ravens linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo has been outspoken for several years now on issues concerning gay rights in America. But a single letter by a Maryland politician has pushed Ayanbadejo's beliefs into the national news cycle.
It all started when Maryland House of Delegates member Emmett C. Burns Jr. sent a letter to Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti, asking Bisciotti to censor Ayanbadejo from making public statements about his support of same-sex marriage. When the letter was leaked to the media, a firestorm was born.
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"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 Friday, according to The Baltimore Sun.
Ayanbadejo, a special-teams ace entering his 10th season, said "various employees" in the Ravens organization have offered their support. He received plenty of support on his Twitter and Facebook pages as well.
The Ravens plan to return Burns' correspondence. A hint where that could be headed was found in a statement released Friday by team president Dick Cass.
"We support Brendon's right to freedom of speech under the First Amendment," the statement read.
NFL Players Association president Domonique Foxworth said he was "encouraged" that many in the football world have come out in support of Ayanbadejo.
"I don't know if I can come up with a strong enough word, but (Burns') request was asinine," Foxworth told the Sun on Friday. "It was frustrating and disappointing, but I was encouraged by the support that Brendon received from the football world ... and the support that the Ravens have given him was great."
Same-sex marriage has emerged as one of the country's most controversial debates in recent years. Ayanbadejo's choice to speak publicly on the issue makes him a unique figure in the "macho" culture that still defines the NFL.