[Marxism] Players’ Support of Gay Marriage Alters N.F.L. Image

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Sun Sep 9 17:46:20 MDT 2012

NY Times September 8, 2012
Players’ Support of Gay Marriage Alters N.F.L. Image

Baltimore Ravens linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo has been a consistent 
supporter of legalizing same-sex marriage. In 2011, he filmed his own 
video backing this November’s ballot initiative in Maryland and posted 
it on YouTube, and he recently donated Ravens tickets to a Marylanders 
for Marriage Equality fund-raiser.

Ayanbadejo’s acts caught the attention of Emmett C. Burns Jr., a 
Maryland state delegate who opposes same-sex marriage. On Aug. 29, Burns 
sent a letter to Steve Bisciotti, the Ravens’ owner, urging him to 
“inhibit such expressions from your employee and that he be ordered to 
cease and desist such injurious actions.”

Burns’s letter elicited an aggressive, searing response from another 
N.F.L. player, Minnesota Vikings punter Chris Kluwe, who said he could 
not sleep after reading the letter Thursday night because he was too 
infuriated. So he wrote a profanity-laced response to Burns and 
submitted it to Deadspin.com.

“Your vitriolic hatred and bigotry make me ashamed and disgusted to 
think that you are in any way responsible for shaping policy at any 
level,” Kluwe wrote, adding later: “Why do you hate the fact that other 
people want a chance to live their lives and be happy, even though they 
may believe in something different than you, or act different than you? 
How does gay marriage, in any way, shape or form, affect your life?”

Kluwe’s letter, which has been lauded by many supporters of same-sex 
marriage since it was posted Friday, has offered a change in perception. 
The N.F.L. has long fought the stigma of having a homophobic culture. 
Now, two pro football players have powerfully lent their support for 
same-sex marriage, taking a political figure to task in the process.

“It was unexpected to a lot of gay people to have someone from the most 
masculine sports league in the country come to the defense of the gay 
community and attack this person,” said Cyd Zeigler, a founder of 
Outsports.com. “It was unexpected, and it was awesome. To see the clear 
passion for this topic, I think, was energizing.”

The support offered by Kluwe and Ayanbadejo is timely, because Minnesota 
and Maryland are among four states that will have same-sex marriage 
votes this November. In Maryland, Maine and Washington, the legalization 
of same-sex marriage will be on the ballot. In Minnesota, there will be 
a vote on an antigay marriage constitutional amendment that, if passed, 
would define marriage as a union between a man and a woman.

“These guys are heroes,” Brian Ellner, a leading marriage equality 
advocate, said of Kluwe and Ayanbadejo. “This kind of thing has never 
happened before. It matters because Brendon and Chris are professional 
athletes who are uniquely positioned to help shape opinions and say to 
fans, to people who may not be focused on this, that gays are just like 
you and me.”

In the past week, Ayanbadejo has been contacted by supporters in Brazil, 
Norway, England, Australia, Colombia and Ireland. He has also been 
overwhelmed by the support of his Ravens teammates and other N.F.L. 
players. “I’d say the majority of players are siding with me, that all 
people have a right to live and love and be happy,” Ayanbadejo said in a 
telephone interview. “That’s really amazing. I’m very happy to see the 
tides changing in the positive.”

Kluwe, whose brother-in-law is gay, said all but “four or five of about 
6,000” messages he had received on Twitter in response to his letter 
were positive.

“I think the culture in the N.F.L. has become a lot more tolerant in the 
last 10 years or so,” Kluwe said in a telephone interview. “There’s a 
younger generation coming in every year or two, and they make me hopeful 
of the future.”

There has never been an openly gay active N.F.L. player. In 1975, the 
former 49ers and Redskins running back David Kopay said he was gay. Roy 
Simmons, a former guard for the Giants and the Redskins, came out in 
1992, and the former defensive tackle Esera Tuaolo, who played for five 
teams over nine seasons, did so in 2002.

And, Ellner said, support for gay-rights issues is on the rise in the 
league. The current and former N.F.L. players Scott Fujita, Michael 
Strahan and Nic Harris are among those who have spoken out in support of 
same-sex marriage. The Hall of Fame wide receiver Michael Irvin, who had 
a brother who was gay, appeared on the cover of Out magazine. Zeigler 
said he had interviewed 25 current players in the past year, all of whom 
said they would welcome a gay teammate.

Perhaps most noteworthy, in August the San Francisco 49ers became the 
first N.F.L. team to join the It Gets Better campaign, creating an 
anti-bullying video in support of gay, lesbian and transgender youth.

“I think it’s a transformational moment and seismic shift to see so many 
folks in the world of sports stepping up and speaking out in support of 
equality and fairness and, in this instance, marriage equality,” Ellner 
said. “It really demonstrates what we know, and what’s apparent in the 
polls, and that the world has changed.”

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