Well, this is awkward.
Last month, Baltimore Ravens linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo made national news after Del. Emmett C. Burns Jr. (D-Baltimore County) blasted the team and the player for his support of gay marriage. Burns ultimately backtracked, saying Ayanbadejo had a right to free speech.
Now another Ravens player is jumping into the same sex marriage debate — on the opposite end of the field from Ayanbadejo.
Over the weekend, Ravens center Matt Birk, who grew up in Minnesota, published an op-ed in a newspaper there “to clarify that not all NFL players think redefining marriage is a good thing.”
“Same-sex unions may not affect my marriage specifically, but it will affect my children — the next generation,” Birk wrote in the Minneapolis Star Tribune. “Ideas have consequences, and laws shape culture. Marriage redefinition will affect the broader well-being of children and the welfare of society. As a Christian and a citizen, I am compelled to care about both.”
And while Ayanbadejo has agreed to appear with Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) at an event next week supporting gay marriage, the Baltimore Sun is reporting that Kirk is expected to tape a video opposing same-sex marriage, which was legalized in Maryland earlier this year but is up for referendum next month.
“I took a stance like other guys have done before me,” Birk told reporters Monday. “Obviously, we all have opinions. . . .It’s certainly a very inflammatory, very hot topic, because it’s important.”
Birk said he gave Ayanbadejo a heads up about his opinion piece before it was published. “I like Brendon, and I respect him a lot,” he said. The Sun said Ayanbadejo e-mailed the paper yesterday saying he would discuss the issue with Birk “sooner or later.”
“As long as everybody respects everybody else’s opinion, that’s the main thing,” Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. “We talk about politics, religion, all those kind of things, movies, music. It’s okay to have an opinion.”
Two players on the same team publicly on different sides of an incredibly contentious issue — this is uncharted territory for professional sports. It will be fascinating to watch this develop further.