NFL players Brendon Ayanbadejo and Chris Kluwe were honoured on Thursday with an award from Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG), for their work advocating for the LGBT community.

Paul Tagliabue, the former commissioner of the National Football League, presented the award on Thursday evening, and released a written statement commending Kluwe and Ayanbadejo for being allies to the LGBT community, and for dispelling ideas about openly gay players in US sport.

“For PFLAG to be honoring [Kluwe and Ayanbadejo] is particularly appropriate, because one of a parent’s greatest fears when their child is GLBT is that opportunities will be closed to their child,” he said.

“We expect NFL players to be leaders in the community,” he continued, “and they are setting excellent examples.”

Tagliabue was NFL commissioner from 1989 to 2006, and his son Drew, came out at the beginning of his career at the organisation. He was a member of PFLAG whilst working for the NFL, and his son is the executive director of PFLAG New York.

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

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.

In a response to Burns, he wrote: “I can assure you that gay people getting married will have zero effect on your life. They won’t come into your house and steal your children. They won’t magically turn you into a lustful cockmonster.”

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”.

The pair also wrote an amicus brief, and filed it, urging the Supreme Court to act against legislation preventing equal marriage.

A statement released by Kluwe on behalf of himself and Ayanbadejo, said: “I know both of us hope for the day when it’s no longer considered something extraordinary to do the right thing.”

Ayanbadejo, who no longer plays for the Baltimore Ravens said on Thursday that he does not think he was cut by the team for his open support for equal marriage.