The off-season this summer in the NFL saw multiple transgressions on the part of young NFL players with seemingly no focus during the months where their football livelihood disappeared. Cowboys wide receiver was arrested for assaulting his mother; likewise Chad Johnson for head butting his wife; Broncos defensive end Elvis Dumervil was charged with aggravated assault with a firearm and the Detroit Lions had a string of lawbreakers amongst their young roster.
The customary arguments of a widespread immaturity amongst younger NFL players were fired, and that privileged players who should be exemplifying civil behaviour continued to violate laws became a common motif of the summer arrests.
But when Raven linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo spoke out in favour of gay marriages, the law legislators of the state deemed him to have overstepped his confines as a professional football player. Not criticised for breaking the law, the Ravens linebacker was censored for upholding civil rights.
"I'm Brendon Ayanbadejo, a linebacker for the Baltimore Ravens. I believe we should be doing everything we can to make Maryland families stronger, which is why I support marriagefor gay and lesbian couples who want to make a lifetime commitment to each other. People from all walks of life, including gay and lesbian couples, want their children to be in stable homes and protected under the law. Join me; it's the right thing to do," he said in a video for Marylanders for Marriage Equality.
Maryland will hold a ballot in November on the issue of gay marriage that was legalised earlier this year and Maryland state delegate Emmett C. Burns wrote the following letter to Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti:
"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 Ravens 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. 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 Franchise Owner, to inhibit such expressions from 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."
The letter has been given short shrift by Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti, and other figures around the NFL have supported Ayanbadejo for acting as a proponent on the issue. Vikings punter Chris Kluwe was vociferous in his support for the Ravens linebacker and has responded to state delegate Emmett C. Burns with a condemning letter.
At a time when NFL players are under scrutiny for an immorality relating to player safety amidst the Saints’ bounty scandal and an immaturity concerning various misdemeanours off the field, we should applaud Ayanbadejo’s stand on a polemical topic. NFL players have understandably garnered a reputation for taking for granted their privileged positions as professional football players but in Ayanbadejo we see an example of a player prepared to use his standing to positive effect in advocating civil rights on behalf of homosexuals.
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