Baltimore Raven linebacker uses Super Bowl spotlight to promote gay marriage
For Baltimore Ravens linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo and his quest to promote gay marriage, there’s no bigger stage than Super Bowl XLVII.
Hours after Ayanbadejo’s team beat the New England Patriots on Sunday, paving their way to football’s biggest game, the three-time Pro Bowl special teams player wrote an email to gay marriage proponents asking how he could use his time in the limelight support the cause.
“Is there anything I can do for marriage equality or anti-bullying over the next couple of weeks to harness this Super Bowl media?” Ayanbadejo, 36, wrote to Brian Ellner and Michael Skolnik, who works closely with activist and businessman Russell Simmons on political issues.
“A lot of guys when they win the Super Bowl want to go to Disneyland. Brendon wants to go to statehouse to statehouse in support of marriage equality.”
– Michael Skolnik
Ayanbadejo, who did not return messages seeking comment on Friday, later told New York Times columnist Frank Bruni that the email was his “Jerry Maguire” moment, referring to the 1996 hit film in which Tom Cruise penned a mission statement to colleagues that would later get him fired for his brutal honesty.
“It’s one of those times when you’re really passionate and in your zone,” Ayanbadejo told Bruni. “And I got to thinking about all kinds of things, and I thought: how can we get our message out there?”
Ayanbadejo’s support for gay rights, according to Bruni’s report, stems from a childhood in which he was exposed to diverse lifestyles. Ayanbadejo’s stepfather at one point was the resident director of an LGBT dormitory at the University of California at Santa Cruz, and Ayanbadejo and his relatives also lived there.
“I was raised around gay people in a very liberal society,” Ayanbadejo told Bruni in September. “Discrimination was never allowed.”
Skolnik told FoxNews.com it was “no surprise” to receive Ayanbadejo’s email.
“He has been an advocate for this issue for years now, so it was no surprise to see him use the platform he has now to continue advocating for equality,” Skolnik said. “I know Brendon like a brother and it was very typical of him to not be thinking about himself after winning the AFC Championship. That’s the type of person he is.”
Skolnik, who attended UCLA with Ayanbadejo, said the Raven will be pressing the issue before – and possibly after – the Feb. 3 showdown with the San Francisco 49ers.
“A lot of guys when they win the Super Bowl want to go to Disneyland,” said Skolnik. “Brendon wants to go to statehouse to statehouse in support of marriage equality.”
Patrick Gleason, Ravens media relations manager, said in a statement to FoxNews.com that Ayanbadejo “is permitted to express his viewpoints, and the Ravens have always supported his right to free speech.”
Ayanbadejo and Minnesota Vikings punter Chris Kluwe, Bruni noted, are the only two National Football League players whose public statements in support of same-sex marriage generated headlines during the 2012 regular season. Those statements prompted some other NFL players who back the traditional definition of marriage, including Ayanbadejo’s own teammate Matt Birk to voice their opposing opinions.
In an editorial penned for the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Birk, a a Harvard-educated Catholic and the married father of six children, said “we all have family members and friends whom we love who have same-sex attraction.” But he said he believes a marriage can only be between a man and a woman.
“I think it is important to set the record straight about what the marriage debate is and is not about, and to clarify that not all NFL players think redefining marriage is a good thing,” wrote Birk, a six-time Pr Bowl center.
But Ayanbadejo remains determined to make the most of this moment. He said he hopes to follow up a Super Bowl victory with a guest appearance on Ellen DeGeneres’ talk show.
“That’s my ultimate goal after the Super Bowl,” Ayanbadejo told Bruni. “To go on Ellen’s show, to be dancing with her, to bust a move with her.”