You know we’ve reached a tipping point on LGBT rights when an NFL player wins the Super Bowl and, instead of thinking about all the lucrative endorsement deals he’ll be able to score, he hits the airwaves to use his newly enlarged platform to advocate for equality.
But that’s exactly what Baltimore Ravens linebacker (and Super Bowl champion) Brendon Ayanbadejo is doing this week. He’s been an out and proud LGBT ally for awhile now, but Brendon isn’t letting something as trivial as, ummm, winning the Super Bowl tire him out. Yesterday he gave CNN’s Don Lemon what may be my favorite interview of the year so far — Lemon opened by asking Ayanbadejo why he chose the Super Bowl as a time to talk about marriage equality, and Ayanbadejo responded:
Well, I don’t really consider it gay rights, I just call it rights. Everyone deserves to be treated equally.
And it just gets better from there. Ayanbadejo brilliantly explains why LGBT rights are civil rights and makes a point of expanding the conversation to include gender identity and expression. Watch below:
As On Top Magazine points out, by bringing attention to the plight of transgender Americans, Ayanbadejo is likely signaling his support for a law currently being considered by the Maryland General Assembly that would expand workplace protections by adding gender identity to the list of protected categories alongside race, gender, religion, etc.
The Ravens linebacker also published an op-ed in today’s edition of USA Today — the nation’s second-largest newspaper by circulation — in which he calls for the end of homophobia in professional sports and challenges his fellow athletes in the NFL, NBA, NHL, and MLB to create an LGBT-affirming athletic climate that will “pave the way” for “the first openly gay man in U.S. major professional sports.”
Equally outspoken in his advocacy is fellow NFL player Chris Kluwe, a punter for the Minnesota Vikings. You may remember Kluwe for writing a brilliantly biting defense of Ayanbadejo after a Maryland politician attacked him for supporting equal marriage rights (or for putting two particularly memorable phrases from that column onto T-shirts and selling them to raise money for an LGBT rights group in Minnesota, or for dexterously excoriating Twin Cities Archbishop John Nienstedt after he essentially told the mother of a gay son that she’d have to choose between accepting her son and saving her soul, or… well, you get the idea.). Kluwe talked yesterday with MSNBC’s Thomas Roberts about the importance of speaking out for equality:
Kluwe reiterated his support for Ayanbadejo and his call for an LGBT-inclusive sports environment in a statement given to BuzzFeed‘s Chris Geidner:
I stand with Brendon and every other person, athlete and non-athlete alike, who says that discrimination in any form is not the legacy we will hand down to our children. I am proud to be an Athlete Ally, and I hope others will join us in treating all people with compassion, dignity, and respect. A gay player in sports is not defined by their sexuality, but by how they play, and I support any player who wishes to be him or herself with everything I have. Treat others the way you want to be treated.
Treat others the way you want to be treated — it really is as simple as that. Here’s hoping that more professional athletes follow the example set by Chris Kluwe and Brendon Ayanbadejo so that one day, very soon, gay athletes will feel safe, comfortable, and supported enough to come out of the closet while they’re still active players, rather than waiting until they’ve retired to do so.