Baltimore Ravens linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo, the most talked-about supporter of same-sex marriage in Maryland this year, was swarmed by the media as he arrived at Mothers Federal Hill Grille on Monday night.
The second floor of the Baltimore bar was the scene of a fundraiser for the cause that had been billed as a Monday Night Football watch party. Many of the 30 or so attendees — some picked by lottery — turned their attention to the Orioles playoff game instead. The TV cameras in the bar were trained on Ayanbadejo, who came with his young family in tow.
Gov. Martin O’Malley (D), who is championing next month’s ballot measure to uphold the state’s new same-sex marriage law, was waiting to greet the linebacker.
“Awesome of you to do this,” O’Malley, decked out casually in jeans and polo shirt, told Ayanbadejo.
“I’m glad we could do it together,” he replied.
By the end of the night, the two were playing foosball together. Things seemed to go better for Ayanbadejo.
Ayanbadejo has publicly supported allowing same-sex marriage in Maryland for the past couple of years. But his profile rose considerably in recent months after a state delegate wrote to the Ravens organization trying to silence him — which clearly didn’t work.
Ravens center Matt Birk has since spoken out on the other side of the issue. Last week, the Maryland Marriage Alliance, the lead group trying to defeat the ballot measure, posted a Web-only video of Birk arguing that marriage should be limited to a man and a woman.
Ayanbadejo told reporters that he and Birk respect one another’s right to speak out.
“It hasn’t affected our relationship at all,” Ayanbadejo said. “If anything, it’s made us a little closer.”
Proceeds of Monday’s fundraiser benefited Marylanders for Marriage Equality, the lead group trying to uphold the state’s law.