At some point in our recent history it went out of fashion for those in the entertainment industry to be vocal about social and political causes. Not the distant or minor ones mind you: we will always have room for the Matt Damons talking to us about water scarcity, or the Bob Barkers telling us to spay and neuter our pets. Concerning though the big causes, the ones that prick us in our deepest, and most racist, and most bigoted corners, we don’t want those in a cultural position of influence to try and influence us.
We welcome a cute video of so and so holding a puppy up to the camera and telling us to adopt it. We applaud a Derek Rose mumbling through a PSA urging the youth of America to exercise. Lord help us if a professional athlete publicly says he supports gay folk’s share of equality in the right to marry.
The irony (the sad and gross kind, without the playfulness the word “irony” affords in most contexts) in Del. Emmett Burns’s letter to the Baltimore Ravens urging the organization to keep linebacker, Brendon Ayanbedajo, quiet regarding his support of gay marriage is best summed up with Burns saying, “Many of your fans are opposed to such a view and feel it has no place in a sport that is strictly for pride, entertainment and excitement.” Let us ignore the first part, for if Burns wants to live in a world where his football fan brethren can’t tell their asses from a hole in the ground and still think only a select group of the population should be allowed to marry, well good on him. The second part though. Football isn’t the place to influence people. Football. Football, brought to you by NBC, CBS, ESPN, Nike, Reebok, Adidas, Gatorade, manly truck comercials, United States Armed Forces, cheerleaders, Taco Bell, the Tim Tebow Christ brigade, Bud Light, isn’t the place to recklessly toss its influence around.
There really isn’t anything to be said about what happened between Ayanbedajo and Burns that hasn’t already been said by the internet-friendly punter from Minnesota. Chris Kluwe published a hilarious and logical letter on Deadspin the other week, which pretty much covered all bases. There’s been banter about how the First Amendment works in protecting or not protecting the employee of a private company, but with all sincerity, no one should bother giving a shit. Football is a barbaric world whose success is dependent upon how barbaric, how “masculine” we can make it, and to see athletes from this sport speak up and support something that – to many – is not “masculine” is an exciting shift.
Really, the only thing to say is, nice work Brendon Ayanbedajo and Chris Kluwe. In a world where showing up to a children’s hospital once in your career can define you as a civic-minded athlete, it’s inspiring to see two men trying in earnest to affect change.