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Ear to the Ground

Ravens Player to Use Super Bowl to Advocate for Gay Marriage

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Posted on Jan 23, 2013
Flickr/Keith Allison

Brendon Ayanbadejo.

Baltimore Ravens linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo is no stranger to pushing for the legalization of same-sex marriage. Ayanbadejo has been an outspoken proponent of the cause, and for LGBT rights in general, since he became one of the first athletes from a major professional sport to publicly announce his support for gay marriage in 2009. His vocal advocacy even led one Maryland legislator to ask the Ravens owner to silence Ayanbadejo before voters legalized same-sex marriage in November.

Now the Ravens player wants to use America’s biggest sporting event—the Super Bowl—to promote marriage equality. In fact, the issue was on his mind just hours after his team defeated the New England Patriots to win the AFC Championship and advance to Super Bowl XLVII on Feb. 3.

According to Frank Bruni at The New York Times:

He tapped out an email to Brian Ellner, a leading marriage-equality advocate with whom he had worked before, and Michael Skolnik, the political director for Russell Simmons, a hip-hop mogul who has become involved in many issues, including same-sex marriage.

Ayanbadejo wrote: “Is there anything I can do for marriage equality or anti- bullying over the next couple of weeks to harness this Super Bowl media?” The time stamp on the email was 3:40:35 A.M.

On the phone Tuesday afternoon, Ayanbadejo called that missive his “Jerry Maguire email,” referring to the Tom Cruise movie, in which the plot is set in motion when Maguire, played by Cruise, seizes the occasion of a sleepless night to pour his heart and soul into a mission statement.

The Ravens linebacker has also been talking to several gay-rights advocates this week to determine how he can use the heightened media attention surrounding the sporting event to promote the cause.

Hudson Taylor, founder and executive director of Athlete Ally, a group devoted to ending homophobia in sports, is one person Ayanbadejo has consulted. “He’s so excited and ready to take a stand in whatever way he can,” Taylor said. “He is leveraging the biggest sports stage in the world.”

As Think Progress noted: “Ayanbadejo is the model of a straight ally: a football star who just found out he was going to the Super Bowl and reacted by asking what he could do to support the LGBT community. Plenty of individuals will step up when asked, but it’s the ones who take their own initiative who make the biggest difference.”

Ayanbadejo does have one very specific post-Super Bowl dream in mind: to land a guest spot on Ellen DeGeneres’ talk show, where, Bruni wrote, “the two of them could discuss the importance of treating gays and lesbians with more respect—and maybe kid around some, too.”

According to Ayanbadejo, “That’s my ultimate goal after the Super Bowl. To go on Ellen’s show, to be dancing with her, to bust a move with her.”

—Posted by Tracy Bloom.

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