An NFL locker room might seem like one of the least likely places in America to hear someone openly advocating for gay rights--until you meet the Baltimore Ravens' Brendan Ayanbadejo. The linebacker is unique among NFL players in his active support for gay rights and what better stage to push a cause then the most watched event of the year: the 2013 Super Bowl?
“There [are] still 47 or so states that don’t have [same-sex marriage] passed. It needs to be passed federally. Why not be the person to carry that message not only to the United States but to the rest of the world? I have this huge platform. The whole world is watching.
“It’s a message of positivity. It’s a message of equality. And it’s a chance to get it out. It’s not going to affect the way I play football but its going to affect a lot of people’s lives off the field.”
Ayanbadejo emailed gay marriage advocate Brian Ellner and Michael Skolnik, the political director for Russell Simmons, and asked: “Is there anything I can do for marriage equality or anti- bullying over the next couple of weeks to harness this Super Bowl media?”
That we are even talking about him is a testament both to the public platform that professional sports creates and to Ayanbadejo's courage for using it on an issue with so much resistance. That there are no openly gay athletes currently playing in the NFL, NBA, NHL or Major League Baseball is a testament to how sports and homosexuality are seen as incompatible (that none of those players would be gay is a near-statistical impossibility). Hopefully Ayandabejo's courage will encourage a culture of acceptance.