Former Baltimore Ravens linebacker, and equal marriage advocate, Brendon Ayanbadejo, said he does not think he was cut by the team for his open support for equal marriage.
Speaking to the Baltimore Sun on Thursday night, Ayanbadejo said the Ravens, this year’s Super Bowl Champions, had stood by him, and had always known he supported equal marriage.
He distanced himself from another interview at an awards ceremony on Thursday at which he and Chris Kluwe, a player for the Minnesota Vikings, were honoured with an award, when he seemed to suggest that his support for equality was part of the reason he was cut.
He said: “The Ravens have been backing me, they knew my stance for years and have been facilitating me and organizing me with LGBT and set me up with Equality Maryland. They helped me.”
Going on to say that the decision was purely financial, and that it was not viable for the team to keep him as a special teams player, given his salary.
“If they didn’t like what I was doing, they would have cut me a long time ago. I’m a special-teams player and you can find somebody to do what I did for less than half that value. They can find someone to do the same job. I was the most productive player on special teams and the only linebacker who played in every single game. I’m not saying I didn’t bring any value. What I was saying about my bark is louder than my bite is I was talking more that I was productive and it makes you expendable.”
He did go on to address that the issue of equality had become a big one for him, and for the Ravens, but denied that the issue became a distraction, and said that the NFL did not want the focus to be on “bigger” issues than football.
“No team wants any situation to be bigger than football. I think equality rights is inherently bigger than football, but in no way was I a distraction for my team. It was a balancing act. I was there to play football. I was also there to promote positive issues, things bigger than football”, he continued.
“The NFL doesn’t really want that. I was saying the NFL as a whole organization, not just the Ravens. The NFL isn’t talking about politics, immigration policies, war and AIDS. The NFL doesn’t touch those things. The NFL keeps it safe, talking about charities for kids and those less fortunate, cancer, stuff like that. I was touching on issues bigger than football.”
He concluded that he was on good terms with his former team, and that they were “justified”: in cutting him from their roster.
“I think the Ravens think I’m mad at them, but I’m absolutely not. I love the Ravens. When I say my bark was louder than my bite, I’m saying I’m not the player I once was and the Ravens did the right thing. They were justified. I have no problem with them at all,” he said.
Brendon Ayanbadejo was due a $940,000 (£617,000) base salary for 2013, and had been set to enter the second year of his $3.22 million (£2.11 million) contract.
Brendon Ayanbadejo appeared outside the Supreme Court last week to rally in favour of equal marriage. The Human Rights Campaign tweeted a quote from the athlete which read: ”‘In the end, love is always going to win the game’ -Brendon Ayanbadejo.
Chris 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”.