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Maryland delegate tells Baltimore Ravens to silence players

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September 13, 2012

Maryland

By: George Sousouris

Annapolis, Maryland: Delegate Emmett Burns, Jr. (D) sent a letter in late August to Steve Bisciotti, the owner of the Baltimore Ravens, requesting that he silence the political views of his players after a member of the team publicly declared his support for gay marriage. In his letter, Burns wrote "as a Delegate to the Maryland General Assembly and a Baltimore Ravens Football fan, I find it inconceivable that one of your players, Mr. Brendon Ayanbadejo, would publicly endorse Same-Sex marriage, specifically, as a Raven Football player...I am requesting that you take the necessary action, as a National Football Franchise Owner, to inhibit such expressions from your employee and that he be ordered to cease and desist such injurious actions. I know of no other NFL player who has done what Mr. Ayanbadejo is doing."[1]

In the wake of this letter, the Ravens' owner and several other NFL players came to Ayanbadejo's defense, and roundly criticized Burns for his views and his attempt to abridge the First Amendment rights of NFL players. Burns was forced to backtrack, and September 9 said, "Upon reflection, he has his First Amendment rights. And I have my First Amendment rights. … Each of us has the right to speak our opinions. The football player and I have a right to speak our minds."[1][2]

This controversy comes at a time when voters are weighing the issue of same-sex marriage, as the issue is on the ballot this November. Although it is hard to determine if this will affect the outcome of the referendum, there appears to be evidence that it has energized those both inside and outside the state who hold pro-marriage views, including Ellen DeGeneres and Keith Olbermann.[3]

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