I like you. And not just because I’m a lifelong Saints fan who always likes to see the Vikings punt.
No, I like you for the fearless way in which you express yourself. I laughed and cheered over your letter to Maryland state delegate Emmett C. Burns Jr. Having read your opinions before, I knew you’d do a great job of taking Burns to task for his idiotic comments about Ravens linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo (who responded awesomely, I must say). The way in which you broke down, point by point, everything that was wrong with Burns’ actions, was so funny and on-target that there’s little more I could add. I was planning to write my own blog about the whole affair, but you beat me to it in a way that might make me jealous if it wasn’t such sheer awesomeness.
One thing you no doubt noticed in Burns’ letter was that he insisted football players shouldn’t “try to sway public opinion one way or the other.” I’m sure that as a pro football player, you hear that a lot. Don’t you get the feeling, though, that if Ayanbadejo had said something along the lines of, “gays should be stoned, not married,” Burns wouldn’t have batted an eye? Either he wouldn’t have written the Ravens at all, or he would have praised Brendon for being an upstanding, “tell it like it is” kind of guy.
I’ve noticed that about politicians and closed-minded people in general — bloviate all you want about “traditional values” or “taking America back” or whatever, and not a peep. Defend civil rights such as gay rights, and suddenly you’re a “distraction.” Rocking the boat with your evil liberal ideas. Apparently we NFL fans like our players docile and silent, which is why they don’t put names on your jerseys or market your likenesses in any way. “Shut up and punt!”
Well, dammit, I’ve long said that no job should ever suppress anyone from speaking out when they feel it’s appropriate — especially when standing up for someone (from a rival team, no less) whose stance is the correct and compassionate one.
Living in the South, I know what it’s like to be criticized for standing up for the wronged. It can mean your reputation or being the target of desperate, homophobic hate (the latter’s happened to me, and I’m not even gay). So, bravo Brendon and bravo to you; you’re both assets to the NFL. I respect the hell out of your stand and I hope more of your brethren speak up as well. Like you said, speaking out is how change happens, both in sports and in life. And contrary to what naysayers might claim, you will have a whole lot of fans backing you up. Fans like me, who can see through a rival helmet to the smart mind underneath.
Have a great season, man. And keep fighting for what’s right.
cc: Brendon Ayanbadejo