If all that Emmert C. Burns Jr. wanted was more attention then he has succeeded. If the Baltimore politician was trying to forward his political beliefs, silence All-Pro NFL linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo or persuade the Baltimore Ravens to infringe on the First Amendment rights of an employee then he seems to have failed, with your attention.
A democrat in the Maryland House of Delegates representing Baltimore County's District 10, Burns sent a letter to the Baltimore Ravens to express his dismay that a member of the team had been voicing his support for same-sex marriage, as reported by WBALTV, Yahoo! Sports and other outlets. In a letter dated August 29, 2012 and addressed to Ravens owner Steve Biscotti, Burns writes "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," wrote Burns, "and try to sway public opinion one way or another."
According to WBALTV, Burns became upset when he learned that Ayanbadejo had contributed a pair of Ravens tickets to a fundraiser for Marylanders for Marriage Equality. After expressing his dismay at Ayanbadejo's actions in his letter, Burns then asked the Ravens to silence the 36-year-old veteran.
"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."
By saying that he knows of no other NFL players who have "done what Mr. Ayanbadejo is doing," Burns reveals only a lack of awareness of the league and the players that make it live and breath and tackle. Moreover, his statement shows that he certainly hasn't been paying attention to Ayanbadejo, who joined the Ravens for the 2008 season and wrote about his support of same-sex marriage for The Huffington Post in 2009.
Maybe I am a man ahead of my time. However, looking at the former restrictions on human rights in our country starting with slavery, women not being able to vote, blacks being counted as two thirds of a human, segregation, no gays in the military (to list a few) all have gone by the wayside. But now here in 2009 same sex marriages are prohibited. I think we will look back in 10, 20, 30 years and be amazed that gays and lesbians did not have the same rights as every one else. How did this ever happen in the land of the free and the home of the brave? Are we really free?
Ayanbadejo has been consistent in his stance and his support of equality for all, filming a public service announcement for Marylanders for Marriage Equality in 2011. He was a Ravens player at the time but this far more visible gesture -- relative to the tickets he donated -- went unnoticed by Burns.
Further proving Burns wrong is the reality that support of LGBT causes in the NFL is far from limited to Ayanbadejo. In August 2012, the San Francisco 49ers became the first NFL team to participate in the "It Gets Better" program, helping create a public service announcement intended to inspire and comfort LGBT adolescents.
In 2011, the San Francisco Giants became the first MLB team to make an "It Gets Better" PSA. Shortly after the Giants' video was released, the Baltimore Orioles became the second MLB team to join the "It Gets Better" campaign. Did Burns take note? Or did a midsummer attack against the woeful 2011 Orioles not provide quite the same platform as one against the Baltimore Ravens on the eve of their season opener?
In the days following Burns' letter, Ayanbadejo has addressed his views and the reaction they elicited on Twitter.
Minnesota Vikings punter Chris Kluwe is another NFL player who exercises his right to free speech on Twitter -- and in his "Out Of Bounds" blog at TwinCities.com. After reading a story about Burns' letter to the Ravens at NFL.com, Kluwe fired off several tweets lambasting the politician.
WARNING: Tweets contain strong language.
If you follow Kluwe on Twitter (and you probably should) then you likely know that he is a supporter of Minnesotans For Equality and engaged in just the sort of behavior that Burns finds "inconceivable" and limited to Ayanbadejo.
Should the Vikings expect to hear from Michele Bachmann?