Brendon Ayanbadejo: I can do more to help towards equal marriage having left the NFL

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Former NFL player Brendon Ayanbadejo has expressed ongoing support for equal marriage, and has said that now he has left the world of professional sport, he can help “so many more people”, than he could before.

Ayanbadejo, a former Baltimore Ravens linebacker, in an interview with the Associated Press, called on athletes to speak out in support of equal marriage, saying it is “the right thing to do”.

Attending a news conference in Fort Lauderdale, where he was joined by Equality Florida, he said: “We are calling on everybody across all spectrums of sports,

“I think the star power, especially with athletes, allows us to hit a demographic. … I think this allows us to have our voice reach a little bit deeper to people who wouldn’t normally hear our message.”

The 36-year-old equal rights campaigner, who has been vocal in his support for equal marriage, and attended rallies at the Supreme Court last month around arguments for two cases linked to the issue, said he thought he had a “bigger calling than football”.

“I have a chance now to help so many more people than I did while in football,” he said.

Ayanbadejo was cut by the Ravens earlier in April, and in one interview he suggested the attention drawn by his equal marriage stance could be the reason. He has since asserted that the team was fully supportive of him.

“They said go ahead and use your platform,” he said. “And not only did that make the Ravens look good and also we won the Super Bowl, but also it’s a good example for other teams in the NFL as well.”

Speaking to the AP, Ayanbadejo said he was part of a group of athletes who were in touch with equality organisations, and that they were “just trying to facilitate them so they can have a support group amongst each other.”

He said he is not gay, but that his parents were a biracial couple, who would not have been allowed to marry in the 1960s in various US states.

“It’s personal, but I equate it to equal rights, and a lot of people can’t see it that way,” he said, referring to equal marriage.

Yesterday, the NFL agreed, in an unprecedented move, to better protect gay players against discrimination and harassment, the New York Attorney General said.

Ayanbadejo gave another interview denying that he thought he was cut because of his views, in which 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.”

Earlier in April, he said he knew of four gay NFL players who were looking to coordinate coming out, in order to face any potential backlash together.

Other reports have suggested that, for several years, a currently active NFL player has been openly gay to many teammates, and coaches.

He was last year involved in a controversy when 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.

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.

Alan Gendreau, a gay American footballer has expressed hopes of being drafted by an NFL team, and could be the first openly-gay player the industry has anticipated for some time.