Del. Emmett C. Burns Jr. is backing off his request that Baltimore Ravens management “inhibit” linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo from publicly supporting same-sex marriage, following a bevy of supporters rushing to the football player’s defense.
The seasonal arrival of football and election ballot initiatives collided late last month when Burns (D-Dist. 10) of Woodlawn wrote a letter Aug. 29 to Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti requesting Ayanbadejo “be ordered to cease and desist such injurious action” and “concentrate on football and steer clear of dividing the fan base.”
“I am of the position that I do not take away anyone’s First Amendment rights,” Burns said Monday. “But I also have First Amendment rights, and I have a right to assert those free-speech rights. That’s what I’ve done. This has been interpreted by some as an attempt to abridge the First Amendment rights of an individual; that’s not what it was.”
Burns added he would issue a news release Monday on the issue, and declined to comment further on his intent in writing the letter.
Ayanbadejo has appeared in online videos for Marylanders for Marriage Equality, promoting passage of a referendum to make same-sex marriage legal in the state. He also donated Ravens tickets to the organization to be used for fundraising, and has penned commentary on the issue for The Huffington Post.
Ayanbadejo has seen a slew of support from entertainers and Twitter followers, including an open letter from Minnesota Vikings kicker Chris Kluwe posted on the website Deadspin. Minnesota is facing a ballot question on a constitutional amendment defining marriage as between one man and one woman, and Kluwe is active with groups opposing the amendment.
In the expletive-laced letter, Kluwe calls into question Burns’ understanding of civil rights, asking “Do the civil rights struggles of the past 200 years mean absolutely nothing to you?”
Burns was born in 1940 in Jackson, Miss., was active in the civil rights movement and has been involved in efforts to study the legacy of slavery in Maryland.
Baltimore Ravens management is supporting Ayanbadejo’s right to freedom of speech, and will pen a response to Burns, according to BaltimoreRavens.com.