Did the Ravens Axe Brendon Ayanbadejo for his Gay Rights Activism?

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It’s been an up-and-down week for Ravens linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo. The outspoken gay rights advocate flew to New York to accept the Straight for Equality in Sports Award from PFLAG, only to learn that he would be “released” — polite sportstalk for “cut” — from the team. In an interview with Newsday, Ayanbadejo intimated that his activism was perhaps to blame:  “My bark is louder than my bite. 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?”

Ayanbadejo’s comments caused a bit of a stir, at least until the 36-year-old took to Twitter to clarify things. What he meant, he said, is that he understands that he’s an aging member of an aging team, and that the Ravens might be able to make better use of his $940,000 base salary. In an interview with the Baltimore Sun, Ayanbadejo distanced himself from his Newsday comments and said that the team supported him during his public spat with anti-gay-marriage Del. Emmett Burns Jr. “I’m a Raven for life,” Ayanbadejo said.

Nonetheless, he does have some pointed criticism for the football industry: “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.” We’ll miss you, Brendon!

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