Delegate, Raven clash over same-sex marriage

St. Louis Rams tight end Michael Hoomanawanui, left, catches a 9-yard pass for a touchdown as Baltimore Ravens linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo defends during the second quarter of a preseason NFL football game Thursday, Aug. 30, 2012, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Seth Perlman)

Andrew Mollenbeck,

WASHINGTON – Sports and politics have collided in Maryland, taking the same-sex marriage debate well beyond the state’s borders after an NFL player wrote a scathing, open letter to a lawmaker.

The initial figure was Baltimore Ravens linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo, who has supported same-sex marriage for years.

He has appeared in a video for Marylanders for Marriage Equality and more recently, offered a pair of tickets for a fundraiser at the team’s home opener.

That’s when Delegate Emmett Burns Jr., D-Baltimore County, raised his objection of the issue, launching it onto the national stage.

He believed such public support for same-sex marriage from a player was out of line and must be stopped.

Burns wrote a letter to Ravens’ majority owner Steve Bisciotti, saying he found it “inconceivable that one of your players, Mr. Brendon Ayanbadejo, would publicly endorse Same-Sex marriage, specifically, as a Raven Football player.”

A copy of the full letter is below.

He went on to ask Bisciotti to “inhibit such expressions from your employee and that he be ordered to cease and desist such injurious actions,” according to the letter first obtained by WBAL-TV.

That request prompted Minnesota Vikings punter Chris Kluwe to write an open letter to Burns, blasting what he called “vitriolic hatred and bigotry” and the abridgment of free speech. (Editor’s Note: A copy of that letter, available here, contains explicit language.)

Kluwe’s letter has made it into articles and blog posts across the country, while fueling the debate over the place of athletes’ personal views in public life.

Burns, reached by phone Monday morning, seemed to back off his request that players “cease and desist” from endorsing such issues.

“It was not my intention to abridge anyone’s freedom of speech,” he told WTOP.

“But it was something I don’t agree with. I have a right to express it, as does he,” Burns said.

When asked if he had read Kluwe’s letter, Burns simply said, “No.”

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Emmett Burns Letter

(Copyright 2012 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)

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