Last week, football culture, very much known for its homophobic bigotry, made enormous strides when two NFL players made headlines for vehemently lending their support for same-sex marriage.
It all started in 2011 when Baltimore Ravens linebacker, Brendan Ayanbadejo (say that three times fast), started speaking out in support of the legalization of same-sex marriage. He made a profound YouTube video that will give you chills explaining that gay and lesbian couples want to marry for the same reason everyone does: love and commitment. And that it’s a matter of the government treating everyone equally. He also donated Ravens tickets to a Marylanders for Marriage Equality fundraiser.
But apparently Ayanbadejo’s decision to stand up for love wasn’t received too kindly by Maryland State Delegate Emmet C. Burns Jr. who just so happens to oppose gay marriage. But not only does he not think same-sex couples should be able to marry, he also thinks that NFL players shouldn’t be allowed to voice their support. Specifically, he thinks that the Ravens should silence Ayanbadejo from “trying to sway public opinion one way or another.”
In a letter to the Baltimore Ravens, Burns wrote: “Many of my constituents and your football supporters are appalled and aghast that a member of the Ravens Football Team would step into this controversial divide.”
He went on to say, "I am requesting that you take the necessary action, as a National Football League Owner, to inhibit such expressions from your employees and that he be ordered to cease and desist such injurious actions. I know of no other NFL player who has done what Mr. Ayanbadejo is doing."
Never mind freedom of speech, says Burns. Get your player to shut the hell up. Get your player, who is bravely and boldly speaking out about something about which so many NFL players have kept quiet for years, and make him stop. Otherwise people might just start listening. And THEN what would happen? Happy gay people everywhere! The horror!
But here’s where it gets good.
Minnesota Vikings punter Chris Kluwe was so furious after he read the letter that he couldn’t sleep. So he wrote his own letter and sent it to Deadspin. I insist you read the whole thing (it’s so worth it), but here are just a few of my favorite parts:
“If gay marriage becomes legal, are you worried that all of a sudden you'll start thinking about penis? "Oh shit. Gay marriage just passed. Gotta get me some of that hot dong action!"
“I can assure you that gay people getting married will have zero effect on your life. They won't come into your house and steal your children. They won't magically turn you into a lustful cockmonster.”
“P.S. I've also been vocal as hell about the issue of gay marriage so you can take your "I know of no other NFL player who has done what Mr. Ayanbadejo is doing" and shove it in your close-minded, totally lacking in empathy piehole and choke on it. Asshole.”
My mother raised me (unsuccessfully) not to cuss, explaining that if I used the F-word all of the time, it would lose its power, and while I agree (again: in theory, not practice), I think Chris Kluwe’s profanity in this instance is completely powerful and I kind of want to change all of my screen names to “cockmonster.” With a cute picture of a fuzzy penis-shaped Sesame-Street-type character with one adorable googly eye.
Alas, I digress.
What’s amazing and inspiring about this is that in the face of adversity, NFL players, guys little boys and grown men look up to and respect, guys whose opinions in many ways might actually resonate with fans more than a politician, spoke up and basically said, "This is not okay. Gays deserve the same rights as straight people. It’s a matter of equality.”
And that’s pretty cool.
Unfortunately, with fights like this, it always seems to be one step forward, two steps back.
Just a few days after this small victory for tolerance, Jaime Kuntz, a freshman linebacker at North Dakota State College of Sciences, was kicked off the team after kissing his boyfriend in the press box during the first game of the season. (He was sitting out due to a concussion.)
After a teammate spotted the kiss, he narced (sorry, but that's what we called it in reform school) on Kuntz to the coach. Coach Chuck Parsons then confronted Kuntz about it on the bus ride home and Kuntz told him he was mistaken. Because his boyfriend is 65-years-old (What? He likes older dudes.), Kuntz lied to his coach and said the man was his grandfather.
Later, he felt guilty about lying and came clean.
Unfortunately, it was too late.
This from SFGate:
In a Sept. 3 dismissal letter obtained by The Associated Press, Parsons told Kuntz he was being ousted from the team under the "conduct deemed detrimental to the team" category outlined in guidelines in the team's player's manual. Parsons specifically noted the manual's section on "lying to coaches, teachers or other school staff."
"This decision was arrived at solely on the basis of your conduct during the football game; and because you chose not to be truthful with me when I confronted you about whom else was in the box with you," Parsons wrote. "Any conduct by any member of the program that would cause such a distraction during a game would warrant the same consequences."
Here’s the thing: We all know that Kuntz wasn’t kicked off of the football team for lying. He was kicked off because he had the audacity as a football player to kiss a man in public during a game. (Frankly, it sounds like the best part of the game considering his team was down by more than FORTY points when the kiss happened.) Alas, lying about the kiss gave his coach the perfect cover under which to hide his homophobia. He’s not a bigot; rather, he just wants to uphold the honor and integrity of his football team.
Kuntz has since left the school, saying “Football didn’t work out, so there was no reason to stay,” but that he may pursue a walk-on role at another university.
I hope he does. And I hope he makes the team. After all, it’s about time that ALL football players accept the fact that statistically, there are more than a few gay players on their team. And that those players can play just as well and just as hard as anyone else. And that they don’t deserved to be judged, ridiculed, or discriminated against because of their sexuality. Not on the field. Not off of the field. Not ever.
And in the meantime, if you are a member of the LGBT community, please remember that "It Gets Better." It must because the San Francisco 49ers say so.
Follow @daisy on Twitter where she rants and raves about all things football.