Baltimore Ravens' Brendon Ayanbadejo on Marriage Equality, Matt Birk, Pro-Gay Players

Baltimore Ravens linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo has always been about equality. But now he's got more NFL players agreeing with him than ever before.

BY Michelle Garcia

October 04 2012 1:31 PM ET

Has your relationship with your teammate Matt Birk changed since he wrote an op-ed about his opposition to marriage equality?
He's a really great guy. He's the go-to guy in the locker room. There's other guys as well, but he's the perfect example of what a teammate is. I was shocked when he opposed it, but I can't let that issue get between me and him, and all the great things we've experienced together. I was shocked and I was a little sad, but I can't let that affect our relationship. Before he knew me and accepted me as a friend, he knew my brother and played with my brother for several years. He's done a lot for the game and for the community, so it's hard. So it's not like I'm sugar-coating anything, I'm just telling the truth.

The difference is that he doesn't see it as a human rights issue. It's just a fundamental difference in how we both see the issue, and it's kind of hard to get across to someone who's not even in the same ballpark as you on the issue. I haven't even talked to him about the issue either.

Recently you've said that the amount of support over gay rights and marriage equality has grown exponentially among NFL players. Why do you think that's true?
Just because every few years there's a new generation of NFL players, and unless you're a great, great player, the average career is about three and a half years, so when I first started talking about this issue, it was a completely different set of players in the league, and the league has turned over so much in the last four years since I first touched the subject. Now this younger generation has come in and they're a lot more accepting, a lot more understanding. They're just a completely different generation of young men who see the world differently. That's the main reason why.

There's only a couple of weeks left before Maryland votes on whether to legalize marriage. What would you say to recruit some of your NFL colleagues to join the fight?
I would say before the issue of equal rights for gay people, there was the issue for equal rights for women, for minorities, specifically for African-Americans. It's going to take heterosexuals to approve marriage equality just like it took white people to stand up to abolish slavery. Now it's our turn. We've benefited from equal rights and human rights, and now it's time for us to help another minority group, the LGBT community, so we can treat them like equals, because they are our equals.

You're an avid Twitter user, and you use the platform frequently to talk about social justice issues and politics. How do your fans react who just want to follow you because you're a football player that they like?
I've been on Twitter for a year and change now, and when I first started getting followers, it was mainly football people. But as time has gone on, the demographics have changed, and now LGBT people follow me, some people in fashion follow me, a lot of health-conscious people who are into training follow me. There's a little dog community that follows me. A lot of people in different subgroups that I commingle in. Football is just one of the groups that follows me. It's like a pie that we divide up — 20% are football, and like 50% are LGBT. I do get complaints like, "When are we just going to talk about football?" No one else complains. It's just the football people. Last time I checked it was my Twitter, you know?

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