It’s been a while since I’ve taken an interest in football and football players, particularly at the professional level. Probably not since the Plunkett days of the Patriots. I have nothing against the sport itself, per se, but high-priced thugs like Vick, Roethlisberger, and, apparently, most of the Saints, have left me less interested than usual.
But, Brendan Ayanbadejo and Chris Kluwe’s recent comments in support of marriage equality, and against detractor Emmett C. Burns, Jr., a Maryland state legislator, have renewed my faith in the NFL: that it can draw athletes of talent AND character and conviction. Ayanbadejo’s original stand, as part of a Maryland marriage equality campaign, and Kluwe’s subsequent open letter to Burns, to which I’ve linked below, are what I always hope for from those who have become role models for many. In this case, I think it’s especially noteworthy that these voices come from pro athletes — football players, no less — from whom many kids get some of their ideas about masculinity. To see two “tough guys” take a stand for gay marriage is no small thing.
Kluwe’s letter to Bennett, who called on the Baltimore Ravens to silence Ayanbadejo, also was no small thing. He called Burns out for trying to suppress free speech and for his hypocrisy… hypocrisy that allows him to tout his work on civil rights through the years while trying to stifle the rights of others.
So, for Ayanbadejo and Kluwe, a first down. For speaking up, speaking truth to power, and leading by example. For Mr. Burns, a 15-yard penalty for unsportsmanlike contact. Or, perhaps, he should be disqualified since that conduct was pretty flagrant.