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Ayanbadejo continues speaking out for gay rights

ayanbadejoblog.jpg Ravens linebacker/special teams star Brendon Ayanbadejo has once again publicly advocated for gay rights, this time in a column appearing on recently launched ESPNW.

The column, written by Jane McManus (who was, full disclosure, a professor of mine at Columbia) attempts to address whether a gay player could ever succeed (survive?) in the NFL. As you probably know, no player has ever come out publicly while playing in the league (or in Major League Baseball or the National Basketball Association or the National Hockey League, for that matter).

Ayanbadejo has been "outspoken" -- such a tortured term -- since his days at UCLA, and earlier this year filmed a commercial urging Marylanders to vote to legalize gay marriage.

In the piece, Ayanbadejo backs a popular theory on how the first gay athlete might find a way to go public: be a star.

Ayanbadejo said it would be harder to exclude an all-star who came out than a player clinging to a roster spot. Just as players who have exceptional skills don't have to follow every rule, a gay player at the top of his sport would probably not face as much derision.

"If someone is a great player, things become invisible," Ayanbadejo said.

There's something to that thought. You figure many more home-town fans would support a gay player who contributes important tackles/hits/baskets/goals. A gay All-Star keeps the issue in the fore-front, and more robustly counters gay stereotypes. But he also becomes the ultimate banner-carrier and abuse-taker. He'd be in high demand for interviews and speaking engagements, and opposing fans (as well as anti-gay groups in each city) would make him a constant target of abuse.

The common corollary most people point to is Jackie Robinson, who bravely broke the color barrier and faced many of the same issues. But Robinson was representing a large group that had more openly been discriminated against. There were black teams playing across the country, and numerous players who were clearly of Major League quality. Robinson went first, but he knew he wouldn't be alone for long.

A gay player, though, would appear largely out of a vacuum.

As a graduate student, I ended up working on a long project about gay rugby. It was -- the quiet suburban-raised kid in me is ashamed to admit -- the first time I'd had any long conversations with gay men (or women). The rugby community I ended up writing about was robust, with probably 50 or so players from various backgrounds. They were a close group, even by rugby team standards, because they were bound by much more than a game.

A good number of them had, long before, made the decision to hide their sexual preference because of their interest in sports. They'd never wanted to appear to be even veering toward the edge of the masculine world their teams created.

That same atmosphere drove others away completely. They spent their lives avoiding sports until hearing about the gay rugby movement. Many who may have grown into fine athletes stayed away from even trying; ironically, by their late teenage years they yearned to fit in with a gay culture that they feared might reject "jocks."

It's not like an elite athlete would find a more welcoming environment in college. Consider that there are some 12,000 Division I football players, and not one of them has come out publicly.

A gay player would have few, if any, other gay players to lean on for support. There's no movement toward making the world of big-time athletics more accepting of gay men. It appears that the job would be the ultimate individual effort, to play off a sports cliche.

Only significant societal change -- even more significant than what we've seen in the last 20 years -- will create a culture in which a gay athlete -- star or not -- can feel secure discussing his orientation. That Maryland law Ayanbadejo pushed for failed, after all. It's telling that it took ESPNW -- described as "ESPN's first business dedicated to serving female athletes and fans" -- for the issue to be brought up. Though, to be fair, ESPN does employ one of the few openly gay sports writers in the country, LZ Granderson. And The Washington Post has addressed the issue recently. Granderson posited two years ago that the first known gay athlete won't become so because he chooses so; these days, he's likely to be outed by an aggressive media entity.

You'll notice that at the end of that story, Granderson name drops two NFL players who had spoken out about being accepting of a gay teammate: Ayanbadejo and New Orleans saints linebacker Scott Fujita. So, the same two guys quoted in McManus' column.

In the story, she quotes several NFL players who say that the jocularity of the locker room might be difficult for a gay man to deal with. Being a homosexual would provide ammo that other players wouldn't even need.  The culture, we're told, is one in which players "mess" with each other as a way of bonding and bridging differences.

But we're not anywhere near the point when those differences can include a player opting to enter into a relationship of, as Ayanbadejo put it, "love and commitment" with another man.

Maybe, though, you see it differently. Thoughts, as always, are welcomed below.


I don't hate gays. I can't spare the hate, I use it all on myself. However, I just don't understand why thier sexuality is such a part of thier identity. I happen to be a heterosexual but that is a small part of who I am as a person. Maybe my perception is skewed, but gays seem to make thier sexuality the driving force of who they are as people, rather than just a part of a larger person.

How do you gain employment with a leading newspaper and still have a misinformed, narrow viewpoint such as this? How dare you compare Jackie Robinson's courageous foray with a sexual CHOICE (it hasn't nearly been proven otherwise, not even close) impeding someone's ambition. That is ignorant. I am black because I was born with this pigmentation. I did not choose it (but would). I cannot walk down the street without someone knowing that I am black unless they were blind. It has nothing to do with choice. Someone who is homosexual chooses the actions that define that group. We are not animals, we have the ability to reason and choose. We do not have to obey animalistic impulses. I do not jump on every curvy woman that I lay eyes on, even if that is my impulse. I choose to approach my wife, in the same way a homosexual chooses his approach. To center a people group around a choice is not the same as a people group centered around a 100% birth-obtained trait. To blindly agree with the pop-culture trend that wants to equate homosexual choice with a RACE is simply amateur. I am disappointed and irritated with your blanket miseducation on this one.


First, thanks for taking the time to read and comment.

Can you send me the research you've read that proves being gay is a choice? I'd be interested to read that.

My purely anecdotal experience is that, for the guys I talked to, it wasn't a choice. They fought the feeling for years, even decades, and then had to hide their feelings from some others (including family) long after they admitted to themselves that they could only feel true love for other men.

And I was hardly "blindly agreeing." I actually said that the comparison wasn't apt, for a variety of reasons. The similarity between the two situations ends basically with the breaking of a cultural barrier. The things on either side of the divide differ drastically.

Thanks, again, for taking the time to read.

Chris, if being gay was a choice, why in the world would anyone choose to be gay? If you have not noticed, there are plenty of ignorant hate-mongers out there who make the lives of gays and lesbians miserable. If you know any gays and lesbians, and chances are you do, you might ask them if being so has made their life easier. Many would tell that they have spent a lot of time wishing that they were not gay. Just as your sexual preference is engrained in you, so too is it for others, and like skin color, it cannot be discarded. For you concede in your own post that you “approach” your wife. You have not entirely “reasoned” your way out of sexual impulses like you imply. Yet when you “approach” your wife, you are not judged. Gays and lesbians cannot say the same about “approaching” the people they love, who in most states cannot be described as husbands or wives. The comparison between race and sexual orientation is not as absurd as you make it seem, and frankly, in light of the oppression dealt to many because of skin color, I am surprised that you are so unsympathetic.

Pirate, I'm sure if you asked most Gay people they would tell you that their sexuality is just a small a part of who they are as you feel it is of yours. It is society that makes a huge deal about a person being Gay. When society stops condemning and ostracizing people for being Gay then being Gay will be perceived a a small part of who that person is.
Chris I guess you can make yourself feel good about your anti-gay attitude by convincing your self that it is a choice. If you were being realistic you would see that no one would choice to live a life where they are discriminated against because of that choice. Until recently people were incarnated or institutionalized in this country for being Gay. In parts of the world they still are and in some places they are executed. When exactly did you choose to be straight or were you just born that way? If you have same-sex attractions that you choose not to act upon then perhaps you should consider that you are bisexual and not straight. Maybe you should ask some black gay people where they receive more discrimination from, the white community or the black?
Thank you Chris Korman for a well written thoughtful article.

This is a response to the post by Pirate1001. First of all, as a straight guy, if you think you don't know anyone who's gay, I would guess you are sending vibes that say you wouldn't be a good person to be "out" to. As a Gay man, when I get together with friends, we rarely talk about sex. We talk about each other's lives, which may or may not include a partner (just by chance, myself and my friends are all single at the moment). We discuss how we're dealing with life's struggles and revel in life's joys. We talk politics (I'm Conservative and a Tea Party Supporter). We talk entertainment, sports, current events...pretty much anything that you might talk with friends about. The only difference is that we are attracted to either the same sex or to both sexes. Our sexuality is not all we are, it's simply part of who we are. And finally, please don't hate, especially if the target is yourself. Self-hate is not only totally unproductive, it's absolutely self-destructive. Take care of yourself! Later...

chrisbraven -- you are the misinformed one here, your ignorance is staggering. Gay or straight is not a choice, any more than eye color is.

I am disappointed and irritated with your blanket uneducated OPINION on this.

Good article. To pirate1001, I think it's *heterosexual* people that make gayness a big thing. When gay guys hold hands, they get stares and sometimes comments and insults; straights don't. With a constant barrage of that kind of message, of course it elevates the conspicuousness of that feature of your life. I think rather than put up with that stuff, gays tend to congregate together to have happy lives among non-judgmental people, and given that their gayness is what brings them together, it's celebrated and a culture develops around it. But among the gays I know, they talk about their jobs, TV, etc., not "oh, did I tell you about gay today?"

Actually, it is I who should thank you for reading comments. RE-reading mine, I feel that it was too harsh with you as a journalist, so for that, I apologize and ask your forgiveness.

I'm glad you asked about the research aspect of things.

First of all, I would say this: in the scientific method, the burden of proof is on the aberration from normality, not the norm. To categorize any aspect of the aberration from normality, one must have an abundance of positive research for said theorem. Read: proof. The NORM here is a biological disposition towards heterosexuality which is not only supported through natural function (childbirth), but an obvious numerical evidence advantage. You said to show research that proves being homosexual is a choice, but I say the burden of proof is on YOU to show that it isn't.

Yet, there IS clinical research to back this claim: the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders cited homosexuality as a mental disorder and an aberration to normal sexuality from its' inception to the third version (DSM III)of this central manual in psychiatry, finally being ousted in 1987 (DSM-IV). In 1973, the first changes were made under protest by pro-homosexual groups. This fact alone demonstrates my pop-culture theory: people became upset that homosexuality was looked on in this way, wanted to practice it and wanted acceptance of their practice, and organized protests against the medical body that oversees the DSM. That is pure culture. Of course, research was done on both sides, but I have not found anything conclusive at all. It hasn't been. So I will not be peerpressured by pop culture to change my viewpoint because of an unproven theory, a lot like evolution. People can intimate that I'm dumb, but the abundance of factual evidenced supports what I believe: That homosexuality is a CHOICE.

Here is an excerpt from DSM-II, the only one I could access:
302 Sexual deviations
This category is for individuals whose sexual interests are directed
primarily toward objects other than people of the opposite sex, toward
sexual acts not usually associated with coitus, or toward coitus
performed under bizarre circumstances as in necrophilia, pedophilia,
sexual sadism, and fetishism.
302.0 - Homosexuality
302.1 - Fetishism

Another angle here is that people deny and come out of this lifestyle every day. I met, interviewed, and conversed with a man who had done this very thing. He believed he was homosexual and acted on this for years, he then had an awakening of personal faith, and through this, rejected that lifestyle. He now has been married for over a dozen years and has kids and appeared peaceful and happy. He views homosexuality as an addiction and so do I. And while I feel compassion for the men and women trapped in this addiction, I will never change what I believe about it.

People think that anti-homosexual addiction folks have no basis for what we believe. Alas, we have the preponderance of the evidence.

Owen-- You're not hearing my point. When I approach my wife, it's not impulsive. I can stop. Especially if she says "no." The same applies for the impulse to physically express oneself in a 'romantic' way with a member of the same gender. I love plenty of men in my life, dearly. The difference is a homosexual chooses to express this love physically, making it tied to romance. Is it possible to be a homosexual but never engage in a homosexual act? Feelings don't make one homosexual, in my opinion. ACTING on those feelings does. But my point is that we don't HAVE to act on impulses. We can deny them. What would cause me to do that? If I had a moral code that did not include that action as legitimate.

I would love to rob a bank. Sometimes I envision schemes on how it could work. But I will never do it because stealing is wrong and I would have natural and spiritual negative consequences for that action. Am I a bankrobber?

I do want to divulge that my stance is rooted in the Bible. It's not even my stance. It's part of my faith that homosexuality is not a legitimate choice. I can see that if someone is not a Christian, they perhaps have no reason to deny those impulses, except if they really looked at the societal consequences.

Oh, and, I've heard the "why would someone choose this?!" argument a lot; first heard it 20 years ago in college. And yet, they do, when they act on those thoughts. That is 100% choice. If a Christian came to me and told me he was struggling with homosexual thoughts, I would tell him that God loves him, I would affirm his manhood ("You are a solid man. We all struggle with something."), I would tell him that loving male friends is natural, and I would tell him that a physical manifestation of that love is what he must pray and work to avoid, because it is not the true function of manhood, according to the Bible. I would also encourage him to pray for female friendships. Oneness with a woman has no equal. .

Ayanbadejo. Good work.

I have a question, after reading the column in the post. Is Ayanbadejo gay? Why do he feel like it is his moral obligation to stand up for gays? He keeps involving himself in commericals and is consistently vocalizing his views and opinions on gay equality. I'm just asking because when most people I know affiliate themselves so quick to become an activist of something it is usually because they might be encountered somehow or someway with that lifestlye. Maybe he needs to come clean about some of his inner- feelings that he might not be sharing with the world. Oh, and alot of gays I know have kids and that still doen't mean that they are not gay!!

No,Chris, you would not 'love to rob a bank'. Unless your goal is the sheer experience of being in such a situation (yourself and others in danger), your goal in robbing a bank would be the same as any one else - you would like to get a great deal of money with relatively little effort.

I wanted to be married and raise a family; I also realized that my primary sexual/emotional/romantic impulses are toward other men. Instead of thinking, 'oh, God doesn't want me to have sex with men; I'd better marry a woman', I married a man who I was in love with, and we adopted two sons.

Now, I'm married and raising a family, with someone who I truly and passionately love. I do not believe God disapproves of this; your freedom to believe otherwise is NOT infringed by my living my life as I do.

For what it's worth, I tend not to talk about sex very much; not the way I was raised. The point is - if I had a picture of my wife on my desk at work, very few people would look at it and think, 'oh, that's the woman he has sex with'. If you looked at a picture of my husband on my desk and thought 'oh, that's the man he has sex with', the problem is not with me.


I really feel sad that you actually choose to believe everything that you have wrote. I hope and pray that you are not raising children and teaching them the same.

With respect to homosexuality being a choice, I would encourage peple to read up on research regarding the hypothalmus' of gay men compared to straight men. Also, read up on cross-species studies which demonstrate that homosexuality exists among many other species in the animal kingdom. On top of this, Homosexuality has existed in every single civilization throughout history, even in civilizations where it has been punished by death.

Also Chris, referencing the DSM II? Come on man, that book is severally out-dated and has been replaced with much more valid research.

Incidently Chris, it has been documeted through various research studies, that people who are homophobic (and would say that you have some homophobic views) are behaving that way because they are anxious about their own sexuality.

If being gay were really a choice than how come none of the prominent conversion therapies have worked? How come the people who founded these therapies are often foun in gay bars themselves? In fact, in 2001, the United States Surgeon General reported that there is no scientific evidence that demonstrates that you can change someone's sexual orientation.

I take severe offense to your paragraph about not expressing impulses. You say that the sexual act is what makes someone homosexual. Every definition (medical or otherwise) defines homosexuality of a sexual/romantic attraction to the same sex. I think the thought is way more important than the behaviour. And, if someone does have homosexual thoughts, why should they have to repress it?

Also, are you really comparing robbing a bank to love between two people of the same sex?

I understand that your stance is rooted in the bible, a document that is well over 2000 years old. I also have to laugh at the fact you choose not to acknowledge evolution (which has so much scientific backing it should be considered a law similar to gravity).
If you really are as faithful as you claim, do peope a favor and keep your judgements to yourself. Isn't that the Christian way?

Chris, if people choose to be gay, then heterosexuals must chose to be straight. So, do you remember when you chose to be straight?

. . . unless you are gay (because then oneness with a person of the same sex would be the that perfect equal).


As a left-handed, straight man, I hope that you don't view me as a scientific "aberration," for I and my fellow lefties (straight, gay, or otherwise) are not the right-handed "norm."

In retrospect, I guess my left-handedness is a "choice," as I can use my right hand to do most things, but it can only "throw like a girl," which I don't find very manhood-affirming.

I don't know why you can't allow non-heterosexuals to live their lives as they see fit, regardless of whether you agree with their "choices" (assuming they fall within the consensual adults category)." I'm sure that there are people who are confused about their sexuality and may find a happy life as a straight person, but to expect all others to conform to this "norm" can often only cause pain for themselves and those with which they seek to lead "straight" li(v)es.

As far as religion goes, Christians are supposed to love others and leave the judging up to God. There are far more pressing issues in this world to worry about than whether gay people should be allowed to lead happy lives in a society that espouses freedom of religion.


Well, I actually do share these beliefs with my kids, my family, the kids I work with in public school, the literal thousands of kids that I've ministered to across the country. But I have a potentially disturbing revelation for you: they are more gung-ho than I.

I see some inconsistencies in your arguments that suggest that you didn't thoroughly read mine. But I will respond to a few points:
--That homosexuality has existed forever means nothing significant. So have many things that you and I would agree are abhorrent. I believe we were created with the ability to choose wrong from right. So, there must be a wrong. It has existed since the beginning.
--What is "homophobic?" I fear no man. I fear God. That seems to be more pop-culture stuff, there. If I oppose homosexuality because it is coded into my faith for me to, I am afraid? No, I do that because I'm obedient. To God.
--You didn't answer my question. Am I a bank robber? According to your definition, I am. Yet, HOW if I've never robbed a bank?
--The Bible has withstood the test of time and always will. It's one of a kind. I'd rather trust it than "the latest research" which can diametrically change one year to the next, according to pressure from interest groups.
--Your evolution statement killed your credibility. Evolution is a solid and textbook THEORY. Why? Because the crucial step in evolution has NEVER BEEN PROVEN. That is, "the missing link." It has never been seen, found, uncovered. It has only been speculated about. So, evolution actually takes a larger leap of faith to believe in than Christianity.
--The Christian Way is to Shine His Light. This issue is important because it seeks to encroach on something that belongs to Christianity--marriage. Also, I don't want to stand idly by while my country codes into law something that will cause us all to be judged.
--Again, the NORM doesn't have to be chosen. The ABERRATION from the norm must be chosen. The NORM just is.


Brendon is a fine American. He should defend Americans' right to be or do as they wish.

America is more American when it lives by it's creed that ALL men (and women) are created equal. America is less American when it allows personal differences to become the litmus by which we judge (rather than effort and honor).

Lastly, why the heck are we all so interested in what other folks do - let alone what they do with their genitals. Seriously, have we not enough in our own lives to worry about? Have we not enough really serious stuff to worry about as a People that sexual orientation ought to be really, really low on our priority list of concerns.

How about Peace?

Braven, there's actual physical proof of evolution, such as fossils, and micro-organisms such as bacteria that have developed resistance to antibiotics. Where is the physical proof of the existence of a deity, or of a messiah? (Hint: the Bible is not proof, it's a BOOK. Nor are your feelings proof, nor those of anyone else.)
Bravo for Brendan Ayanbadejo and Sean Avery for speaking out on the issue of marriage equality. It's nice to see athletes, male athletes especially, who espouse the values of acceptance and equality.

chrisbraven -
while i appreciate your opinion and interpretation of the issue, i just need to point out a couple of things.

you argue "that homosexuality has existed forever means nothing significant", yet a few bullet points down assert that "the bible has withstood the test of time and always will". can't have it both ways. either longevity (at least in this narrow context) gives credence or validity to something or it doesn't.

also, should i expect to find equally passionate comments from you on articles about jewish marriages or muslim marriages? where is the outrage against those unholy unions? marriage is NOT "something that belongs to Christianity". marriage is a legal contract between two people under the law. yes, various religions have their own interpretations and views on what marriage actually is, but let us not lose sight that the debate is and should be only focused on marriage as defined by law.

now, if the pastor of a christian church refuses to perform a marriage ceremony for a gay couple, i will be right there beside you defending that pastor's right to practice his church's doctrine. but, try to prevent a legally appointed state official from performing a marriage for a gay couple, and i will defend those rights just as passionately.


I think your assertions are totally foolish. To suggest that the psychiatric community would change their opinion based on social pressure as opposed to empirical research completely ignorant. Please keep this in mind. here once was a time when scientific "research" was used to say that we, blacks and other minorities, were naturally inferior to whites and now we have a half black president, a Latina supreme court justice and various other minorities in prestigious positions. Should should the old "research" have been allowed o remain? Did the old establishment also succumb to social pressure? Am I as inferior as seem to want to make me because I'm black and gay?

"I don't hate gays. I can't spare the hate, I use it all on myself. However, I just don't understand why thier sexuality is such a part of thier identity. I happen to be a heterosexual but that is a small part of who I am as a person. Maybe my perception is skewed, but gays seem to make thier sexuality the driving force of who they are as people, rather than just a part of a larger person."
The hatred for them is so high that there are heterosexuals bully them verbally, physically and even acts of homicide as well as them taking their own lives. Instead of them letting people bullying them, they are making it part of who they are. The moment these religious and atheists insecure heterosexuals (not all, but there's a huge group) start maturing and look at them as people and their sexuality is nothing to fear, it will become less and less the part of who they are. For now the more hatred they receive the more they will need to be proud of who they are.

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