By Ken Reed
Dan Wetzel might be the best sports columnist in America. Brendon Ayanbadejo might be the best activist athlete in the United States. And Maryland state house of delegates-member Emmett C. Burns Jr. (D-Baltimore County) might be the biggest political fool in the country (I know, there’s tough competition in this category).
In a terrific column this week, Wetzel tells the story of Ayanbadejo’s support for same sex marriage and Burns’ efforts to silence him because of that support. Ayanbadejo, an NFL linebacker with the Baltimore Ravens, has spoken out on a variety of issues, including promoting more physical activity and better nutrition in our schools, and pushing various environmental sustainability solutions.
Burns, who is also a Baptist minister, sent a letter — written on Maryland House of Delegate letterhead — to Ravens owner Steven Bisciotti last week calling for disciplinary action against Ayanbadejo for his stance on gay marriage.
“I find it inconceivable that one of your players, Mr. Brendon Ayanbadejo, would publicly endorse Same-Sex marriage, specifically as a Raven Football player,” Burns wrote. He went on to say, “I believe Mr. Ayanbadejo should concentrate on football and steer clear of dividing the fan base. I am requesting that you take the necessary action, as a National Football League Owner, to inhibit such expressions from your employees and that he be ordered to cease and desist such injurious actions.”
In his column, Wetzel responded:
“None of this is about whether you support or oppose gay marriage in Maryland or anywhere else. Go ahead and debate that among yourselves. It’s about the idea that NFL players should be robots who simply play football and have no outside thoughts or interests. That’s not who most of them are. It’s the same defense that [Tim] Tebow deserves when some grow angry that he honors his faith during football games. Why shouldn’t he? Who is that hurting?”
“It’s not even about gay marriage. This is about common sense and the common good. America doesn’t need its natural role models – pro athletes – stifled from showing their broader interests, their intellectual curiosity, their thoughts and beliefs and education and politics. We need more Brendon Ayanbadejos, not fewer, the way we need more Tim Tebows, not fewer. We need more young men aware of and engaged in the big, complex world outside the film room, not less. Let the free market place of ideas sort out who is followed or not.”
Amen, Brother Wetzel.
Fortunately, Ayanbadejo doesn’t appear to be deterred by Burns’ silly and unpatriotic ramblings.
“Football is just my job, it’s not who I am,” Ayanbadejo wrote on Twitter. “I am an American before anything. And just like every American I have the right to speak!!!”
The First Amendment is — more than anything — what makes America great.
Burns should be ashamed of himself for writing that letter.
— Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans
Sports Forum Podcast
Episode #22 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Rethinking Sports Fandom with Author Craig Calcaterra – We discuss Calcaterra’s new book “Rethinking Fandom: How to Beat the Sports-Industrial Complex at Its Own Game” and explore new ways to be a fan in the year 2022.
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Episode #21 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Chatting About a Broken Game With Baseball Writer Pedro Moura – Moura is a national baseball writer for Fox Sports. We discuss how and why the game of baseball is broken, what factors caused it, and offer a few thoughts on how to “fix” a great game.
Episode #20 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Coaching Youth and High School Sports Based On What’s Best for the Athlete’s Holistic Development – We chat with long-time youth, high school and college basketball coach Jim Huber.
Episode #19 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Capturing the Spirit of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League with Anika Orrock – We discuss the hoops AAGPFL women had to jump through to play the game they loved as well as the long-term impact and legacy they have in advancing sports opportunities for girls and women.
Episode #18 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Talking about the 50th Anniversary of Title IX and the Lia Thomas Controversy with Nancy Hogshead-Makar – Hogshead-Makar is a triple gold medalist in swimming, a civil rights attorney and CEO of Champion Women.
Episode #17 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Talking Sports With Legendary New York Times Sports Columnist Robert Lipsyte – We chat about Lipsyte’s amazing career and some of the athletes he covered.
Media"How We Can Save Sports" author Ken Reed appears on Fox & Friends to explain how there's "too much adult in youth sports."
Ken Reed appears on Mornings with Gail from KFKA Radio in Colorado to discuss bad parenting in youth athletics.
“Should College Athletes Be Paid?” Ken Reed on The Morning Show from Wisconsin Public Radio
Ken Reed appears on KGNU Community Radio in Colorado (at 02:30) to discuss equality in sports and Title IX.
Ken Reed appears on the Ralph Nader Radio Hour (at 38:35) to discuss his book The Sports Reformers: Working to Make the World of Sports a Better Place, and to talk about some current sports issues.
- League of Fans Sports Policy Director Ken Reed quoted in Washington Post column titled "What happened to P.E.? It’s losing ground in our push for academic improvement," by Jay Mathews
League of Fans is a sports reform project founded by Ralph Nader to fight for the higher principles of justice, fair play, equal opportunity and civil rights in sports; and to encourage safety and civic responsibility in sports industry and culture.
Sports & Torts – Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans – at the American Museum of Tort Law
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