Players in the US National Football League (NFL) have been using their influence to speak out in favour of equal marriage, ahead of the Supreme Court taking on two cases around the issue this week.

Brendon Ayanbadejo appeared on Sunday on television show Face the Nation, and said that equal marriage was the next big step towards equality.

He said: “This is something I’ve been speaking about since 2009… In my opinion it’s just the evolution of civil rights and equal rights. Athletes do a lot to change society and this is something we can make a big difference. It starts with bullying and kids in elementary school and goes all the way to the legislative, and treating everybody equally. . . .

“This is a fight that myself and a bunch of my colleagues want to take on and we feel like everybody should be treated equally. We’re not going to stop until everyone is treated fairly.”

Linebacker Scott Fujita, wrote for the New York Times, going on to address the importance of athletes being involved in controversial issues such as equal marriage, and says “why is common sense not enough”.

He said: “[W]e’re people first, and football players a distant second… Football is a big part of what we do, but a very small part of who we are. And historically, sports figures like Jackie Robinson, Billie Jean King and Muhammad Ali have been powerful agents for social change. That’s why the messages athletes send — including the way they treat others and the words they use — can influence many people, especially children.”

At the beginning of March Scott Fujita spoke out about the issue of a lack of gay players in professional sport, and said that he thinks it would “not be an issue at all” to have a gay player in the locker room.

Brendon Ayanbadejo, of the Baltimore Ravens, the team which won this year’s Super Bowl, and Chris Kluwe of the Minnesota Vikings, also wrote an amicus brief, and filed it, urging the Supreme Court to act against legislation preventing equal marriage.

The Supreme Court will tomorrow begin to consider an appeal against The Defense of Marriage Act, urged on by President Obama and even Bill Clinton, the former President who signed DOMA into US law.

As well as the appeal on DOMA this month, the Supreme Court will also consider overturning Proposition 8, which bans same-sex marriage in California.

Brendon Ayanbadejo was last year involved in a controversy because he was criticised by a state delegate for speaking in favour of equal marriage.

Mr Kluwe, a punter for the Minnsota Vikings, made the headlines in September when he defended Ayanbadejo against a call from Delegate Emmett C Burns Jr, to reprimand Ayanbadejo, who recorded a video for a gay rights advocacy group In October 2011.

Ayanbadejo previously said he hoped that homophobic comments by fellow NFL player, Chris Culliver would open a positive dialogue about gay players in the NFL, and in November, upon waking to find that Maryland voters had chosen to legalise equal marriage in the state, Ayanbadejo said it was “like Christmas”.