Friday, April 5, 2013

Ayanbadejo Takes High Road After Release From Ravens

When Brendon Ayanbadejo was released by the Baltimore Ravens a few days ago, the chatter was not focused on his age, his recent performance, his football ability, or really football at all.  The media chatter was focused on his activism and outspoken support of LGBT rights. It seemed like an easy topic to point to. Controversial to some, political in nature, and certainly a topic that I’m sure many owners and front offices would like their players to shy away from discussing.

Brandon Ayanbadejo via USA Today
If there were any questions surrounding what the Ravens’ motives were for releasing Ayanbadejo from his three year, $3.22 million contract, they were answered today by Ayanbadejo himself. 

In an interview with the Baltimore Sun, Ayanbadejo was quick to support the Ravens organization and say that it was no doubt a question of his playing ability, not a question of his LGBT support. He seems fully genuine throughout the interview and constantly letting his loyalty to the Ravens organization be known.  Ayanbadejo has always been a man to live life on the high road, and he was not about to change now.

The interview was conducted over an hour and touched on a range of topics and, of course, the possibility of a player coming.  To this, Ayanbadejo had an interesting response.  He said:

"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 what happens."

Four players coming out at one time would be an incredible event.  Since the idea of a player coming out has received such mainstream coverage, much of the thinking around it would be that one player would come out and then others would trickle out behind them before it became common place.  For the most part, we sort of envisioned a situation not unlike Jackie Robinson breaking the color barrier. 
With the one defining player idea also came the push back that it may never happen because of the media scrutiny and intense microscope that would follow.  Having four players come out simultaneously will disperse that media spotlight so that it is not so bright on one player.  Making it easier on the first wave of players to come out is key to not only having the first wave come out, but having the subsequent waves follow suit.
Players coming out is inevitable and as Ayanbadejo said, it may be soon. It is likely that the actual players that come out will get the attention from the fans and media, good and bad, but we must not forget the work that Ayanbadejo (and Minnesota Vikings punter Chris Kluwe and former NFL linebacker Scott Fujita) have done for this movement.  When we thinking of making a permanent positive mark on a sport, we rarely envision a backup linebacker and a punter making such a mark.  They have done just that, they should be celebrated, and when it is all said and done, their work should not be forgotten.
I know that players speaking out on issues like this can be tricky because so many are worried about their commercial appeal.  Hurting their brand is a risk taken when speaking out, especially on topics that are inherently political. But we need more players to use their position in society as professional, revered athletes to make this kind of change just as Brendon Ayanbadeo has done.

Read the whole Baltimore Sun interview with Brendon Ayanbadejo here.

Follow Kevin Rossi on Twitter @kevin_rossi.

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