Former Baltimore Ravens linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo said Tuesday in his hometown Fort Lauderdale that he is continuing his vigorous campaign for gay marriage.
“It’s a changing of the tide right now, not only in society but also legislatively,” said Ayanbadejo, one of professional sports’ most visible proponents of gay rights. “We have a lot of momentum right now. The majority of Americans are siding on the side of marriage equality and even more on the side of civil unions for LGBT [lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender] families.”
Ayanbadejo, 36, has lived in South Florida since 2003, when he played two seasons for the Miami Dolphins. He and Natalee Uzcategui are raising a daughter, Anaya Lee, 7, and son Amadeus Prime, 2.
“You never know what your child’s sexuality is going to be,” he said. “When one of my children turns 22, 23, 24 and becomes an adult, I don’t want to become one of those guys who supports LGBT rights just because it affects my family.
“More importantly, it’s an equal-rights issue,” he said. “Me growing up as a biracial kid, I wouldn’t have had some of the equal rights if I had been born 10 years earlier in the ’60s. Luckily, I was born in the ’70s.”
Ayanbadejo grew up in Santa Cruz, Calif., and said his parents raised him to be open-minded. “Luckily, I’ve always been on the right side of history.”
He got into some hot water a few weeks ago, when he told The Baltimore Sun he knew of four NFL players about to come out, then downplayed his remarks on CNN. The Ravens released him about the same time, but Ayanbadejo stresses his pro-gay stand has never affected his career.
“I knew that I would be ridiculed and whatnot, but I didn’t ever think that my job would be in jeopardy,” he said. “As an ally, I’m doing whatever I can to make it a safe environment.”
A few weeks ago, Ayanbadejo contacted Stratton Pollitzer, deputy director of Equality Florida, the state’s largest gay-rights group.
“He wrote to say, ‘You may not know who I am, but I’d like to help,’ ” Pollitzer said Tuesday. “I said, ‘Yes, we know who you are and we’d be thrilled for you to help.’ ”
On May 27, Ayanbadejo will host an Equality Florida fundraiser at kitchenetta, 2850 N. Federal Hwy., Fort Lauderdale.
A few months ago, Ayanbadejo and Minnesota Vikings punter Chris Kluwe, another ally for gay rights, wrote a brief to the U.S. Supreme Court asking justices to throw out California’s anti-gay-marriage Proposition 8. The court will decide that case and a portion of the U.S. Defense of Marriage Act this spring.
“This can be the tipping point that pushes us over the top, so eventually all Americans look back on homophobia like we look back on racism,” Ayanbadejo said. “We know that it’s not right. People lose credibility when they’re racist. It should be the same when they’re homophobic.”