Today (9 Sept) is the start of the National Football League season in the US. Nothing is different from other years, except more and more players are getting involved in the fight for marriage rights.
The New York Times profiles two of the league's advocates for same sex marriage. Last year Baltimore Ravens linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo posted a YouTube video in support of Maryland's November marriage initiative. He even donated game tickets to a Marylanders for Marriage Equality fund-raiser.
'I’d say the majority of players are siding with me, that all people have a right to live and love and be happy,' Ayanbadejo said to the New York Times. 'That’s really amazing. I’m very happy to see the tides changing in the positive.'
Ayanbadejo's advocacy was noticed by Emmett C. Burns Jr., a Maryland state delegate. Burns stands firmly against gay marriage and wrote a letter to the owner of the Ravens, asking him to 'inhibit such expressions from your employee and that he be ordered to cease and desist such injurious actions.'
Minnesota Vikings punter Chris Kluwe replied with a biting public letter to Burns, supporting Ayanbadejo and marriage equality. Kluwe has noticed his football peers have changed over the years when it comes to gays and lesbians.
'I think the culture in the N.F.L. has become a lot more tolerant in the last 10 years or so,' Kluwe said the newspaper. 'There’s a younger generation coming in every year or two, and they make me hopeful of the future.'
This type of public support from athletes in the country's most popular sport is being hailed by marriage advocates and gay sports fans.
'It was unexpected to a lot of gay people to have someone from the most masculine sports league in the country come to the defense of the gay community and attack this person,' Cyd Zeigler, a founder of Outsports.com, said to the newspaper. 'It was unexpected, and it was awesome. To see the clear passion for this topic, I think, was energizing.'