NFL Player Using Super Bowl to Promote Marriage Equality

Baltimore Ravens Linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo, an outspoken supporter of marriage equality, is hoping to harness the media attention of the Raven's Super Bowl appearance to draw attention to equal rights for the LGBT community.

According to New York Times columnist Frank Bruni, Ayanbadeio sent an e-mail on Monday morning at 3:40 a.m., just hours after the Ravens defeated the New England Patriots in the AFC Championship Game, to marriage equality advocate Brian Ellner and hip-hop mogul Michael Skolnik, asking, “Is there anything I can do for marriage equality or anti-bullying over the next couple of weeks to harness this Super Bowl media?”

Ayanbadejo, whose ultimate goal is to bring his message to Ellen DeGeneres' show with a Super Bowl ring and "bust a move," told Bruni this was his “Jerry Maguire email,” and said he was excited about the opportunity to do more:

 “It’s one of those times when you’re really passionate and in your zone,” Ayanbadejo told me, referring to Maguire’s movie moment and to his own real-life one, in the wee hours of Monday morning. “And I got to thinking about all kinds of things, and I thought: how can we get our message out there?”

DeGeneres tweeted that she's ready for the Ravens linebacker to come on her show:

Ayanbadejo drew national attention during the season when he publicly endorsed Maryland's ballot initiative to legalize same-sex marriage. Maryland legislator C. Emmett Burns Jr. responded by writing a letter to Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti, asking that Ayanbadejo be silenced on the issue:

“I find it inconceivable that one of your players, Mr. Brendon Ayanbadejo would publicly endorse Same-Sex marriage, specifically as a Raven Football player,” Burns wrote in the letter first obtained by WBAL-TV. “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.”

Both Bisciotti and Ravens President Dick Cass rejected the letter, and encouraged Ayanbadejo to use the platform and national attention to promote the issue. "“Keep doing your thing. We believe in you," Bisciotti said to Ayanbadejo. "This is not a team that believes in discrimination in any way, shape, or form.

Burns Jr.'s attempt to silence Ayanbadejo got the attention of Minnesota Vikings punter Chris Kluew, who wrote an open letter to the legislator that said, among other things, gay marriage "won't magically turn you into a lustful cockmonster."

Here's a video of Ayanbadejo at the time:

For Ayanbadejo, it's not just about supporting gay rights. Whether it was women’s rights or interracial marriage or civil rights, whatever it was, it’s all led to where we are today,” he told the Huffington Post. “And now it’s gay rights. And it’s all the same issue even though they’re all different things. They’re all predicated on equality and treating people fairly."

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