Before the Baltimore Ravens' Brendan Ayanbadejo made national waves for his defiance of a Maryland lawmaker who demanded Ayanbadejo's support of gay marriage be silenced, he was supporting equal rights back in the Bay.
Ayanbadejo, whose vocal support of gay marriage as an NFL player dates back to 2008, was also equality-minded back in Santa Cruz, where he played from 1992 to 1995, according to the Santa Cruz Sentinel.
It was Ayanbadejo who drew the ire of Maryland House of Delegates member Emmett C. Burns Jr., who wrote a letter to Ravens management demanding Ayanbadejo be silenced, the newspaper reported.
But the three-time Pro Bowler instead received support from team management and teammates, and Burns is blasted as a Democrat who would both oppose free speech as well as gay marriage, according to reports.
"I find it inconceivable that one of your players, Mr. Brendon Ayanbadejo, would publicly endorse Same-Sex marriage, specifically as a Raven Football player," Burns wrote in a letter to Ravens owner Steven Bisciotti. "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 and try to sway public opinion one way or the other."
"Many of your fans are opposed to such a view and feel it has no place in a sport that is strictly for pride, entertainment and excitement," Burns continued. "I believe Mr. Ayanbadejo should concentrate on football and steer clear of dividing the fan base... "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."
The Ravens have yet to craft an official response to Burns, but in the meantime, the team issued a statement supporting Ayanbadejo, the newspaper reported.
Reached in Baltimore, Ayanbadejo, 37, said that the anti-gay culture within the NFL is disappearing.
"When I did the same thing in 2008, if you went to any football website, everybody blasted me. They said, 'He's coming out of the closet, he's a [expletive deleted] and other slanderous things," Ayanbadejo told the Santa Cruz Sentinel. "Now I see people disagreeing and even saying bad things [about those opposed to gay marriage]. When I did it before, in the football community, 95 percent were against me and now 95 percent are for me. That shows it's come long way in a long time."