See Q&A interview with Brendon Ayanbadejo, below.Fort Lauderdale resident and former Miami Dolphin Brendon Ayanbadejo is turning to political activism, supporting same-sex marriage in Florida.
“My family has enjoyed the rights that everyone else has had across the country, and it’s time for the LGBT community to have all the same rights as everyone else,” he said at a news conference arranged by Equality Florida, the gay rights organization.
“We have a lot of work to do, but this is definitely a battle that we’re not going to give up on. There is a large population of LGBT people here in South Florida who don’t have the rights that the rest of the country gets to enjoy,” he said.
“There are many times the government has gotten it wrong. You can look at the Emancipation proclamation, Loving versus Virginia, Brown versus Board of Education [banning segregated schools] and now here with marriage equality,” he said. “America has gotten it wrong, and eventually we got it right. We’re here to try to make America get it right and make the Constitution live up to everything it promises.”
Ayanbadejo was a linebacker for the Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens. He's been released by the Baltimore Ravens and doesn't know if he’ll have a continuing NFL career at age 36.
Ayanbadejo, who is straight, has been increasingly outspoken on the issue since 2009, and gained lots of positive and negative attention as he campaigned in favor of marriage equality in the Ravens’ state of Maryland.
He said the team never objected, and his outspokenness had nothing to do with his release from the team earlier this year. “Not at all,” he said.
He isn’t sure if he’ll be playing this year.
“I’m not really concerned about football. I’ve been playing since I was 14 years old. I’m 36 now. Sometimes you outgrow things and you need to move on. So if a team wants to throw me a layup, I’ll definitely go and I’ll perform and I’ll play, but I’m not looking to go on workouts and tryouts and do all that. I think I have a bigger calling,” he said.
He said he thinks it was simple economics.
He said he was paid $1 million a year and someone aged 21 or 22 could do the same thing for $300,000 or $400,000 a year. “If you’re an employer are you going to pay someone an extra 600 grand to do the same thing? Probably not. So it’s as simple as that. I’m very proud of what I accomplished last year. I thought I played really well. And I was the only linebacker on the entire roster that played in every single game.”
“I’m happy with where I am right now. I have a bigger calling than football. Equality will always be more important than sports. And of course you know sports has been very important to me and it’s gotten me everywhere I’ve gotten in life, but I have a chance now to help so many more people than I did playing football. This is a very important issue right now. And we have to strike while it’s hot. And I’m going to do as much as I can right now.”
He said he’d be writing for the next few weeks for Fox Sports, focusing on equality issues. “I’m trying to hit as many different demographics and as many different people as I can especially people that aren’t allies, people that are in a different segment of society. That’s why it was so important for me to work with Fox Sports, where I get to hit a lot of people who don’t get the message,” he said.
He said that’s a way that someone like him can be valuable in the political arena on this issue.“I think the star power especially athletes allows us to hit a different demographic. If you’re from Hollywood its kind of a lot of people are already in line with marriage equality in that arena. So people who at are looking at sports and reading articles and things like that from the sports community are a little behind…. So I think that allows us to have our voice just reach a little big deeper to people who normally wouldn’t hear our message. So I think we’ll have a big impact and be able to make a big difference,” he said.
There’s been speculation swirling in the sports world and in the gay community that four NFL players will come out as gay at the same time. Ayanbadejo said he thinks that would be a good idea. He said any coming out by player would cause a “media uproar” and it would diffuse the pressure on any one man by spreading the attention among four cities.
Here are a few more questions and answers after Ayanbadejo’s news conference:
Why is a straight athlete involved in a movement like this?
To me it’s no different than equal rights and civil rights. And I refer to the Emancipation Proclamation. I talk about Lincoln all the time and the visionary that he was in changing this country. He’s obviously a part of the majority stepping up for the minority, and his point of view was a minority point of view…. I’m stepping up and I have the back of the minority population because at one point in time someone stepped up for me …. Somebody stepped up for me to allow me to have all the rights that I have today.
You referred to Loving vs. Virginia, the Supreme Court opinion that struck down state laws banning interracial marriage. How is that relevant?
Loving versus Virginia is so monumental and important because the government’s trying to dictate who we can love. So if a black person and a white person can’t love each other and get married, they’re not going to have equal rights as two white people or two black people. Why does the government have any business in matters of love? So now fast forward to 2013 the government is still dibble dabbling in who we’re allowed to love. If a man wants to love a man and a woman wants to love a woman … it’s the same thing. It’s an equality issue. It’s a civil rights issue. And everybody should just be treated fairly. If two people love each other they shouldn’t be stopped from marriage.
Poll numbers show support for same-sex marriage is very low in the African-American community compared to other groups. Why is that?
It’s directly correlated to religion. If you’re born into a religion and it teaches you that homosexuality is a sin, and you don’t know that you’re born gay and then you’re 22 or 23 and you hear like oh my God people are born gay, you’re not going to believe it. [You’ll think] no being born gay is a sin. We just have to educate people and let people know that that’s the way God created people and they should be treated fairly…. It’s not fair that religion is the main reason why people are against this issue when in fact this country allows people to have several different religious beliefs. And you can practice any one of thousands of religions that have ever existed, or you can practice none at all. This country affords you the rights to do that, and I’ll always stand by that. I believe that everybody should practice whatever religion they choose, but you shouldn’t use that religious right to take away the rights of other people.”