Maryland Lawmaker Asks Baltimore Ravens Owner to Curb Brendon Ayanbadejo’s Support for Marriage Equality


Baltimore Ravens player Brendon Ayanbadejo (above), an outspoken supporter of marriage equality who has appeared in videos for HRC and Marylanders for Marriage Equality, is being targeted by Maryland House of Delegates member Emmett C. Burns Jr., who has asked Baltimore Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti to stop him from talking about it.

BurnsSays the letter, according to

"I find it inconceivable that one of your players, Mr. Brendon Ayanbadejo would publicly endorse Same-Sex marriage, specifically as a Raven Football player. Many of my constituents and your football supporters are appalled and aghast that a member of the Ravens Football Team would step into this controversial divide and try to sway public opinion one way or the other.

"Many of your fans are opposed to such a view and feel it has no place in a sport that is strictly for pride, entertainment and excitement.," Burns wrote. "I believe Mr. Ayanbadejo should concentrate on football and steer clear of dividing the fan base.

"I am requesting that you take the necessary action, as a National Football League Owner, to inhibit such expressions from your employees and that he be ordered to cease and desist such injurious actions. I know of no other NFL player who has done what Mr. Ayanbadejo is doing."

Maryland voters face a ballot measure this November that will decide whether the state's marriage equality law, which was passed by the legislature, will take effect.

UPDATE 1: Ayanbadejo responds.

UPDATE II: Minnesota Vikings punter Chris Kluwe comes out swinging in defense of Ayanbadejo and gay rights.


  1. says

    Wow! Emmett C. Burns Jr. wants to blatantly violate Brendan Ayanbadejo’s first amendment rights! I kind of hope that the Ravens try to stop him so he can publicly humiliate Mr. Burns by successfully suing the pants off him!

  2. Caliban says

    Since Mr Burns is an elected official, a representative of the GOVERNMENT, his attempt to stifle Brendon Ayanbadejo’s speech is a CLEAR violation of his 1st Amendment rights. Usually when people say their “freedom of speech” has been violated they are wrong, but in this case it’s absolutely true.

    I hope the backlash over this is shoved straight down Mr (Montgomery?) Burns’ throat.

  3. Scott says

    According to Mr. Burns bio on his state page: “Born in Jackson, Mississippi, August 26, 1940. Jackson State University, B.S., 1962; Virginia Union University, M.Div., 1968; Presbyterian School of Christian Education, M.R.E., 1969; University of Pittsburgh, Ph.D., 1974. Served in U.S. Air Force, 1975-78 (captain). Minister. Chair, Baltimore Safe Schools Committee, 1991-. Chair, Social Action Committee, United Baptist Convention of Maryland. Member, National Baptist Convention, U.S.A., Inc.; Omega Psi Phi Fraternity. Married; three sons.”

    Apparently he is only hearing from the folks at his church and not from the rest of his constituents. Time he heard. And having served on the Judiciary Committee, he apparently forgot what the told him about the 1st amendment.

  4. breckroy says

    Caliban is right. I get annoyed when most people claim their free speech rights are under attack, because the only thing our Constitution guarantees is your right to speak as you’d like without Government interference.

    When a member of Government contacts a business owner (that no doubt has some subsidies and or tax breaks from that same Government) to quell speech, that starts to move into violation of free speech territory. It will probably matter not, as long as this letter goes nowhere. But if something happens, Mr. Burns better hope he handwrote that thing himself on his own personally purchased stationery–or we start getting into serious issues.

  5. mikenola says

    okay so who in Baltimore can dig up Biscotti’s email address? sounds like rebuttal letters asking him to at a minimum leave the guy alone, at maximum join in in the NOH8 campaign.

    BTW Biscotti’s bio says he was raised catholic by his mother after his dad died when he was 8.

    it also says he believes in progressive business practices.

    could be an ally or could be an enemy…

  6. LLM says

    Here is the information for the Maryland General Assembly on Joint Committee on Ethics. Let them know–but do it respectfully and only use facts, if necessary, borrow the arguments above from Caliban or BreckRoy–that you are concerned about the precedent set and image projected by a member of the legislature using his position to quell speech by contacting an employer (and recipient of state incentives and tax breaks)to quell the speech of a private citizen. Let them know that it does not reflect well on Maryland, that a public response by the General Assembly and Committee is both needed and expected, to demonstrate whether or not the General Assembly condones and allows such misuses of position to violate U.S. Constitutional rights:

    If you are so inclined, share (cc:) your letter with these Maryland media and the Governor of Maryland:

    Copy to:

    Make some noise or he’ll get away with it!

  7. Michael says

    He knows of no other player? Why doesn’t he just say that he hasn’t done the research required to make that determination? Republicans seem to think that if something isn’t humping their faces, that it doesn’t exist. I’m sure that Cleveland Browns Scott Fujita would argue that he exists.

  8. Alan says

    Interestingly the web site cited by Towleroad is – so the official web site of the NFL I assume. The article went on to say:

    “Without even considering what political side of the fence you are on this issue, Burns’ letter comes across as a cynical, short-sighted plea for attention. It is truly bizarre to think that he’d ask the Ravens to stifle Ayanbadejo’s political activities.

    “This whole story leaves us a little speechless. We’ll let Ayanbadejo’s perfect response speak for us.”

    They then post an image of Mr. Ayanbadejo’s tweet, which says “Football is just my job it’s not who I am. I am an American before anything. And just like every American I have the right to speak!!!”

    Kudos to Mr. Ayanbadejo and to the NFL.

  9. says

    @LLM – thank you SO much for the email addresses. Not only did I send off a scathing email to the entire list but my husband and our gay friends did too. Know that your work gathering up the email addresses has paid off handsomely.

    I encourage every one of you to do the same. Send off a mass email to the entire email list and denounce the bigoted Maryland delegate.

  10. LLM says

    Thank you. I think all of us always think “someone else will write” but the truth is only volume matters. Please take the time to write one e-mail and copy and paste the lists above. Let’s get this guy–at the very least–pulled aside and told “stop this.” And who knows, based on his reaction, he could even be censured by the committee. But these are his friends and colleagues. If they think no one really cares, they’ll let it go. So make the whispers a roar and get something done!

  11. Bill says

    Regarding, “Since Mr Burns is an elected official, a representative of the GOVERNMENT, his attempt to stifle Brendon Ayanbadejo’s speech is a CLEAR violation of his 1st Amendment rights. Usually when people say their “freedom of speech” has been violated they are wrong, but in this case it’s absolutely true,” its a bit more complicated than that.

    The First Amendment states that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” The term “no law” generally implies that the government can’t threaten or coerce people either, but it does not prevent anyone, including a legislator, from expressing an opinion – as long as all he/she does it to express an opinion. The constitution, unfortunately, does not protect freedom of speech absolutely – it does not prevent an employer from firing an employee for saying something the employer does not like. It does prevent the government from coercing an employer into firing someone for expressing an opinion the government doesn’t like.

    While it is possible in some states for private companies to restrict their employees rights to free speech by using the threat of firing them if they say something the company’s management doesn’t like, other states have stronger laws protecting their citizens’ rights to free speech. In California, where I live, there are very broad protections and employers cannot lawfully retaliate against an employee for expressing a political opinion (e.g., in a letter to the editor). To see what protections Mr. Ayanbadejo has, you’d have to check Maryland law. Of course, he might have a supportive employer who would not retaliate against an employee for being an engaged citizen, in which case the legislator’s opinion would be ignored.

  12. Icebloo says

    I hope Brendan’s career skyrockets ! He is obviously a great guy who is comfortable in his own skin & isn’t threatened by anyone different to himself.

    If only all straight men were this comfortable with themselves the world would be a better place.

  13. Rob says

    Here’s hoping Brendon’s fairly manicured eyebrows indicate that he is perhaps willing to take a walk on the wild side. Allow me to volunteer to officially welcome him to the fold…

  14. e.c. says

    Why do I feel he wouldn’t have any problem with a player who came out AGAINST marriage equality but whenever someone high-profile comes out in favor then suddenly the bigots just want everyone to remain “neutral”.

  15. says

    We need to get local LGBT leaders, LGBT organizations and all LGBT elected officials in the metro DC area involved in this! They need to loudly speak out against this mans actions in wanting to stifle the first amendment rights of a citizen. This is seriously Islamic middle eastern type fundementalism. Where are our LGBT leaders to directly respond to this man? Are they too busy planning dinners and cocktail parties?
    Seriously, this ‘politician’ needs to hear a mouthful for this horrible injustice he is promoting of attempting to strip someone of his constitutional rights by contacting his employers

  16. Markin says

    I hope everyone who reads this emails and encourage all your other LGBT ally friends to email.

    This is a clear violation and I agree, where are our leaders and why are they not responding to this? This is one of the most unsettling stories I’ve heard in terms of wanting to silence pro LGBT people.

  17. Greg Cali says

    I actually find this frightening and find this elected offcial to be frighteningly dangerous for the gays in his area. If he is going out of his way to silence people from expressing support for gay rights, can you imagine how the gays in his district are treated?

    I’m disappointed that no gay organization or group has yet firmly responded to him.

  18. Samuel L. says

    So how again is the U.S different than some fundmentalist regions when we have politicians like this man
    A.) trying to silence the free speech of a citizen
    B.) getting in touch with this citizens employers so he can be punished for exercising his free speech rights
    C.) wants to deny basic civil rights to millions of gay citizens
    D.) writes a public letter to dehumanize gays and those who support them

    And this is someone who was VOTED into office

    If we as a community don’t get louder and galvanize to respond to fundementalist threats like this, next thing you know, we’ll be the ones forced into the closet. We are the most demonized group in society, hence the importance of each and every one of us actively being involved in our equal rights and respect.

  19. leo says

    … And yet, not one LGBT campaign or group has directly responded to him or gone to the media about him to shed light on his mentality for his constituents. Our representatives are weak as hell and silent when it matters most.

  20. millerbeach says

    How soon he forgets what it is like to have to move to the back of the bus, to have to use the back door, to have to use the other, junky drinking fountain, to have to use the dirty, basement bathroom. Have you forgotten what it is like to be treated like a second-class citizen, you idiot? Apparently so. Too bad nothing was learned from all your suffering. You will, sadly, continue to suffer, since you are truly ignorant.

  21. Edagr Allen Poe says

    From the inside: I can tell you that it’s not Steve Bisciotti’s M.O. to involve himself or the team in things like this. He will do nothing with Brendan in this situation. Brendan’s opinion is not news at the UAPC, it’s well known. The Ravens are a live and let live organization.

  22. Peter M. says

    It’s worth noting that this right-wing, bigoted dbag is a Democrat…
    And he’s not alone there. Just think of Del. Sam Arora, who was voted into office signing a pledge that he would support same-sex marriage, only to vote NO on the deciding vote. Time to clean up for Maryland Democrats.

  23. Bill says

    Emmett Burns is an idiot. He is an ordained minister who also holds public office. I don’t understand how someone can be both. What about separation of church and state? He regularly rants on and on about his religion. He says gay rights are not the same as civil rights because “they can hide being gay but we can’t hide being black”. Absolute total f’ing idiot.

  24. Richard says

    I just filed a complaint with the ethics board regarding Delegate Burns clear attempt to suppress free speech. I sent my e-mail to the addresses that LLM provided. I included my name, address, and phone number. Within half an hour, I had a phone call co-counsel for the Joint Committee on Legislative Ethics.

    She asked that I include an affidavit statement in my e-mail and explained the process that the committee would take. She was very pleasant. Let’s see where this goes!

  25. bob says

    Interesting Richard that you received a phone call….wonder if this whole thing gets ‘swept under the rug’ or if something comes of it.
    I too sent an email (before stumbling to this site) with the exact same arguments previously listed on suppressing free speech. The Ravens could always fire Brendon, maybe…but in no way could they prevent his public support of any topic as an individual. Curious to know if you had a particular form filled out and submitted to get that phone call from Legislative Ethics? That, or it was one good email you sent!!

  26. Frank says

    Why is it that folks like this idiot consider their side (the anti-equality side) to be neutral. But anyone who seeks equality is taking sides. I guess they think that the former status quo is the neutral side?

  27. jamal49 says

    No one has mentioned it but there is a tremendous irony in the complaint by Emmett C. Burns, Jr. to the Raven’s owner, Steve Bisciotti about Brendon Ayanbadejo’s support for marriage equality in Maryland.

    Burns and other evangelicals scream the loudest against hate-crimes legislation or legislation that protects LGBT people from discrimination in employment and housing by claiming that such legislation “violates” their First Amendment rights to freedom of speech and freedom of religion.

    In other words, it’s OK to spew hateful, bigoted, homophobic remarks against LGBT people because, well, it’s in the bible and no one should prevent Burns and his ilk from expressing their “deeply-held, spiritual beliefs”.

    Burns is a hypocrite.

    Thanks, LLM, for all the email addresses. I’m going to have a very busy weekend.




  29. says

    Here’s the scan of the actual letter from Yahoo! News. It confirms that the delegate sent this in his official governmental capacity AND used government resources to do so (at the very least stationery, most likely postage, and administrative support/labor paid for by the State) to caution a recipient of state incentives and tax breaks (the Ravens) to silence the speech of a specific employee. Shameful.

    The letter:–/YXBwaWQ9eW5ld3M7cT04NTt3PTYxMA–/

  30. Ben says

    “Strictly for pride, entertainment, and excitement”? Yeah, because football has nothing to do with money and profit. Surely Mr. Burns must have better things to do with his time in office than curb someone’s conflicting opinion. I’m “appalled and aghast” that such dolts get elected to public office.

  31. MCnNYC says

    I find it curious that none of the posts on this identify Emmett C. Burns Jr as a DEMOCRAT.
    Which he is.
    Perhaps an email to the MD Democratic Leadership would also be appropriate. Or perhaps a donation to his opponent in the upcoming election.
    As a Democratic Voter mysef it’s just curious that Towleroad withhold party affiliation in this instance.

  32. Diogenes Arktos says

    @McN NYC: I agree that it is surprising that TR did not follow one standard policy of identifying the party of the elected official. On the other hand, you must have skipped over the posts of Peter M. and Lincoln Lounger.

    @Bill: Separation of church and state does not (and should not) preclude clergy or similar people from participating in elected office. If it did, Romney would be ineligible. (Too bad.)

  33. shakyacres says

    I find this really encouraging. This is not cleverly calculated oppression – this is sloppy, batshit nonsense sent by a government official (and don’t worry, he won’t be in his job long – his ‘bosses’ will oust him, not because of any outcry, but because of his sloppiness). Whatever – this is the time, NFL. Do it.

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