Ravens' Ayanbadejo to promote gay rights via Super Bowl

The linebacker immediately reached out to activists to use his national platform to promote gay rights, marriage equality and anti-bullying platforms.

Baltimore Ravens linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo is using the weeks leading up to his team's appearance in the Super Bowl in New Orleans to promote gay rights and same-sex marriage.

In fact, as soon as he was back in Baltimore after his team defeated the New England Patriots in the AFC championship game last Sunday, Ayanbadejo was emailing leading gay-rights activists asking how he could use the media's focus on him and the game to draw attention to the cause, according to New York Times columnist Frank Bruni.

Ayanbadejo was not going to waste the spotlight.

"Is there anything I can do for marriage equality or anti-bullying over the next couple of weeks to harness this Super Bowl media?" he wrote to marriage-equality advocate Brian Ellner and Michael Skolnik, the political director for hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons. The email's time stamp was 3:40:35 a.m., Bruni wrote.

Ayanbadejo told Bruni the email was his "Jerry Maguire email," his heart-felt mission statement about change he wants to make a reality.

"It's one of those times when you're really passionate and in your zone," Ayanbadejo said. "And I got to thinking about all kinds of things, and I thought: how can we get our message out there?"

The linebacker has been outspoken about gay rights in the past. When he voiced support for same-sex marriage in Maryland, Baltimore county politician Emmett C. Burns Jr. wrote to the Ravens' owner asking him to silence Ayanbadejo. Another NFL player, Minnesota Vikings punter Chris Kluwe came to Ayanbadejo's defense with an open letter to Burns slamming him for his bigotry.

According to Bruni, Ayanbadejo grew up surrounded by a diverse community. The linebacker at one point told him that his stepfather had been the resident director of an L.G.B.T. dorm at the University of California at Santa Cruz and the family lived there.

"I was raised around gay people in a very liberal society," he told Bruni. "Discrimination was never allowed."

If the Ravens triumph over the San Francisco 49ers at the Super Bowl on Feb. 3, Ayanbadejo said he hopes the win takes him to Ellen DeGeneres' talk show so that he can talk about the importance of treating everyone with respect.

"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."

Ayanbadejo and the talk show host have had exchanges on Twitter in the past. "Thank you Brendon Ayanbadejo of the Baltimore Ravens for speaking out so beautifully for marriage equality," DeGeneres tweeted.


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