In a recent interview, NFL linebacker for the Baltimore Ravens, Brendon Ayanbadejo , discussed why he has been a strong advocate for the LGBT community. In the footsteps of Chris Kluwe and Ben Cohen, Ayanbadejo has been using his stature in the professional football arena to speak out for equal rights, regardless of the reaction or controversy it has caused among his teammates. Ayanbadejo goes into detail as to why he’s speaking out:
It’s always been important to me, but I didn’t become the ambassador that I am until around 2009. Even when I was just voicing my opinion then, I didn’t expect anything to come of it nor did I expect to be a so-called ‘ambassador.’ Actually, my teammates have given me the name of the Gay Ambassador, and I embrace it. But I didn’t know any of this stuff would come to fruition. Then again, since I’m a straight guy, I didn’t know how much LGBT people were persecuted from those against it. The more people fought me on it and were against it, it was like a bodybuilder in a weight room. The bigger and stronger I got on the issue. Now, I’m freakin’ He-Man when it comes to people trying to take away LGBT rights. It really perturbs me more than it ever did before. Growing up in a biracial family and being a product of that, it kind of built me into what I am today. I could identify with a lot of things the LGBT community deals with now in discrimination.”
When asked again how his support for equal rights may cause issues with fellow teammates, Ayanbadejo feels that despite some of the reactions due to religion seem erroneous, at least the once taboo topic is being discussed openly and feels like that is progress:
The crazy thing about the locker room is that it’s tied to the Bible and religion. A lot of guys, they can’t see past that. Not only in teaching them about American history and the American Constitution, which allows people to practice whatever religion they want, I have to kind of give them the vision that it’s not right that this book or religion of love is persecuting other people. That’s always the first topics — the Bible and religion when it comes to LGBT rights. Some guys are OK with the religion part and are starting to accept people who are of the LGBT community. I try to tell them, ‘It’s not a sin. This is the way they’re created. It’s just the way it is, just like the color of your skin. You have no choice.’ But a lot of people really fight me on it. It’s still a discussion I have possibly every day in this locker room where guys just completely disagree and won’t see past that.
“But on the flip side, dialogue is being made. With dialogue comes understanding. And with understanding comes acceptance. We’ve made strides. Usually, the younger guys are a lot more open, so it’s really cool to talk to them about it. But a lot of the older guys are just like, ‘No. No way. Never.’ Again, it’s just like looking at racist people in the past or things that happened, like could you believe what Hitler did to the Jews? You’d never fathom that this country ever had slavery. Hopefully in 20 years, or hopefully sooner, we’ll be able to look back and won’t be able to fathom that LGBTs don’t have the same rights as everyone else.”
I love seeing more and more athletes like this that are able to recognize that we as humans should not be denied rights because of our differences.