The Super Bowl is perhaps the most manliest night of the night, a stereotypical heterosexual explosion of beer, football and commercials that loaded with sexual innuendo and suggestion. It’s not typically an event tied to the issue of same-sex marriage, but Baltimore Ravens linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo is using his global scale to advance a national issue: gay rights.
Football isn’t a sport that likes to stand close to gay rights — not because it’s openly against the movement, but there’s currently no money in it so the point is al but moot. But this season the issue began to creep into locker rooms as we approach the inevitable day where we get an openly gay player in the NFL. There have been gay football players in the past, but no one has dared to come out during their careers.
But you don’t have to be gay to support equal rights, and that’s what Ayanbadejo is standing up for, and this isn’t a new thing.
The linebacker made national political news when he verbally smacked down Maryland Legislator Emmett C. Burns Jr., who spoke out against not only gay rights but Ayanbadejo’s stance on the issue in a letter back in September. Ayanbadejo was supported by quirky and oft-outspoken Minnesota Vikings punter Chris Kluwe, but both helped tie the rights movement to the most popular sport in America.
The hype died down some, but Ayanbadejo is planning on bringing it up to the Super Bowl media all week long.
“It’s one of those times when you’re really passionate and in your zone,” Ayanbadejo said. “And I got to thinking about all kinds of things, and I thought: ‘How can we get our message out there?’”
Ayanbadejo ins’t just focusing on gay rights, but he’s also planning on taking a firm anti-bullying stance as well. It seems like a throw away gesture, as it usually is in politics, but when you have an NFL linebacker using the biggest stage of his life to literally tackle massive issues like gay rights and bullying, that’s saying a lot about who Ayanbadejo is as a person.
The linebacker says he wants to appears on the Ellen Show with comedienne Ellen DeGeneres, should the Ravens win the Super Bowl. Even if the Ravens don’t win, Ayanbadejo should probably make an appearance, as the rights movement could certainly use a face like an NFL linebacker to show that this issue is more about human rights than it is about sexuality.
Not everyone in the NFL is cozy with the idea of gays having equal rights as “normal” heterosexual folks. Ravens center Matt Birk, who is ironically a Harvard grad, is opposed to same-sex marriage and is raising his kids to view life in the same light. Both Ayanbadejo and Birk say their disagreement over basic human rights doesn’t impact their stance as teammates, but who knew that UCLA education would give Ayanbadejo a better worldly view than a Harvard degree.
It’s truly amazing and it really warms the heart to see that Ayanbadejo is taking a stance the way he is. We toss the terms heroic and brave around the NFL all the time for big hits and amazing plays, but Ayanbadejo is fully displaying those traits off the field as he’s helping to lead the charge of a historic civil right movement.