During an hour-long interview with The Baltimore Sun early Friday morning, former Ravens linebacker and special-teams ace Brendon Ayanbadejo emphasized that he doesn’t believe he was cut from the Super Bowl champions’ roster because of his strong advocacy for same-sex marriage and gay rights.
Ayanbadejo indicated that he understands and accepts the decision, praising the Ravens for their support of him being an outspoken voice for gay causes. He distanced himself from his interview Thursday night with Newsday at a Straight for Equality Gala in New York where he was honored along with Minnesota Vikings punter Chris Kluwe, where he seemed to suggest that his beliefs were one of the reasons that he was released earlier that day.
“The Ravens have been backing me, they knew my stance for years and have been facilitating me and organizing me with LGBT and set me up with Equality Maryland. They helped me,” said Ayanbadejo, who was due a $940,000 base salary this year entering the second year of a three-year, $3.22 million contract. “If they didn’t like what I was doing, they would have cut me a long time ago. I’m a special-teams player and you can find somebody to do what I did for less than half that value. They can find someone to do the same job. I was the most productive player on special teams and the only linebacker who played in every single game. I’m not saying I didn’t bring any value. What I was saying about my bark is louder than my bite is I was talking more that I was productive and it makes you expendable.
“No team wants any situation to be bigger than football. I think equality rights is inherently bigger than football, but in no way was I a distraction for my team. It was a balancing act. I was there to play football. I was also there to promote positive issues, things bigger than football. The NFL doesn’t really want that. I was saying the NFL as a whole organization, not just the Ravens. The NFL isn’t talking about politics, immigration policies, war and AIDS. The NFL doesn’t touch those things. The NFL keeps it safe, talking about charities for kids and those less fortunate, cancer, stuff like that. I was touching on issues bigger than football. I think the Ravens think I’m mad at them, but I’m absolutely not. I love the Ravens. When I say my bark was louder than my bite, I’m saying I’m not the player I once was and the Ravens did the right thing. They were justified. I have no problem with them at all.”
Hours earlier, Ayanbadejo’s remarks had created a stir on the Internet.
“My bark is louder than my bite,” Ayanbadejo told Newsday before taking to his Twitter account to clarify his comments. “I make a lot of noise and garner a lot of attention for various things off the football field. When that starts happening, why do you have that player around? I don’t necessarily think that teams want this type of attention.”
Ayanbadejo, who was given recognition along with Kluwe from former NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue at the event Thursday night, predicted that more than one player may come out as gay during their playing career. Ayanbadejo said the groundwork is being laid to reduce the pressure on such a player, and said as many as four players could conceivably come out simultaneously.
“I think it will happen sooner than you think,” Ayanbadejo said. “We’re in talks with a handful of players who are considering it. There are up to four players being talked to right now and they’re trying to be organized so they can come out on the same day together. It would make a major splash and take the pressure off one guy. It would be a monumental day if a handful or a few guys come out.
“Of course, there would be backlash. If they could share the backlash, it would be more positive. It’s cool. It’s exciting. We’re in talks with a few guys who are considering it. The NFL and organizations are already being proactive and open if a player does it and if something negative happens. We’ll see.”
At the Super Bowl, San Francisco 49ers cornerback Chris Culliver drew heavy criticism after he said that a gay player wouldn’t be accepted in the locker room. Culliver apologized and underwent sensitivity training.
“I had a great talk with Troy Vincent,” said Ayanbadejo, adding that he’s been asked to speak to several corporations and institutions, including his alma mater, UCLA, as a keynote speaker at the athlete graduation ceremony as well as Harvard, Johnson and Johnson, McDonalds and Cover Girl.
“The NFL wants to be proactive about what’s going on with players and some of the remarks and incidents that have been happening with the LGBT community. The NFL wants me to talk to the rookie class and they are talking about potentially having talks with all the guys about LGBT sensitivity. I think all the major sports groups need to be productive and take a stance.
“Everyone has a relative or friend that’s in the LGBT community, whether it’s Paul Tagliabue’s son or people in the Ravens organization who have relatives in the LGBT community. I gave Troy my suggestions. There are a lot of opportunities opening up, but I had nothing scheduled because I had been anticipating playing. I knew there was a possibility that I could be released. I have no regrets. I wouldn’t change a single thing. It’s been a good ride. If the Ravens call me in training camp, so be it. If not, I’ll still be busy with a lot of great things.”