|Kluwe, Ayanbadejo, and Burns|
They won’t overthrow the government in an orgy of hedonistic debauchery because all of a sudden they have the same legal rights as the other 90 percent of our population—rights like Social Security benefits, child care tax credits, Family and Medical Leave to take care of loved ones, and COBRA healthcare for spouses and children.
You know what having these rights will make gays? Full-fledged American citizens just like everyone else..."
- From Chris Kluwe, punter for the Minnesota Vikings, in a letter he wrote to Maryland state delegate Emmett Burns, after Burns recommended the coercion and censoring of pro-LGBT Baltimore Ravens player Brendon Ayanbadejo.
Although the full story has been widely reported and Kluwe's letter has gone insanely viral online, it warrants additional discussion here nonetheless.
For those of you who missed it somehow, here's the play in three acts.
- Baltimore Ravens player Brendon Ayanbadejo is a strong and vocal supporter of a November ballot initiative in the state of Maryland that would recognize same-sex marriage.
- A Baltimore County delegate, Emmett Burns Jr., is mortified by Ayanbadejo's public support of the measure. Burns sent a letter to the Ravens owner expressing his displeasure with Ayanbadejo and insisting the player be pressured to "cease and desist such injurious actions."
- Vikings punter Chris Kluwe, also an advocate for same-sex marriage, delivered a public and verbally brutal beatdown to Burns, in his very direct and powerful open letter.
The significance of the actions of these bold NFL players cannot be understated.
Considering the NFL universe in which Chris Kluwe and Brendon Ayanbadejo operate, their public statements in support of LGBT rights are nothing short of groundbreaking. These men are not musicians or television actors, nor are they part of an industry that has shown itself to be particularly responsive to social change (after all, black quarterbacks did not become widely acceptable too many years before our first black president took office).
Kluwe and Ayanbadejo are world-class professional athletes, and not in sports like swimming or tennis where important players have publicly come out in previous years and managed to gain some level of acceptance. These guys are in the NFL, arguably the sport that features the most testosterone-driven and least LGBT-friendly locker rooms of all major American sports.
Granted, the fact that neither Kluwe nor Ayanbadejo is actually gay takes the sharpest and most dangerous edge off of their loud, proud, and public support of equality for gays and lesbians, but that doesn't diminish the value of their contribution.
Make no mistake about it - the "coming out" of these brave men, straight as they may be, knocks down some of the larger homophobic barriers in professional sports and helps pave the way for the NFL's first openly gay player.