Just hours after the Ravens won the AFC Championship game, Brendon Ayanbadejo was already thinking strategically — not so much about football (though we hope that’s on his mind, too), but about how he could use this trip to the Super Bowl to further his favorite adopted cause, gay rights.
We’ve written a lot about Ayanbadejo’s activism here at the Fishbowl. Before last year’s elections, the Ravens linebacker was a vocal supporter of the marriage equality proposition up for vote in Maryland. Football culture doesn’t have the most LGBT-friendly rep, but that didn’t stymie Ayanbadejo (who, it should be noted, also has an amazing talent for self-promotion). So when he found out the Ravens were heading to the Super Bowl, he sent a 4 a.m. email to fellow gay rights activists asking “Is there anything I can do for marriage equality or anti-bullying over the next couple of weeks to harness this Super Bowl media?”
In an interview with New York Times columnist Frank Bruni, Ayanbadejo credits his support for gay rights to being raised in a tolerant, diverse environment. “Discrimination was never allowed,” he told Bruni, especially when his stepfather was the resident director of an LGBT dorm at UC Santa Cruz.
These days, Ayanbadejo doesn’t eat at Chick-fil-A with his teammates (the fast food chain’s owner got some press last year for being anti-gay) and is dreaming of getting an invite to appear on Ellen DeGeneres’s talk show. No matter what happens, Ayanbadejo is already changing the terms of debate for football players and fans; as Brian Ellner, a prominent marriage-equality advocate told Bruni, “as a straight biracial player in the Super Bowl, [Ayanbadejo] can have a huge impact on the future of this issue.”