clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Baltimore Ravens were once a culture clash on gay marriage

Anti-gay former Raven Matt Birk was eventually named the NFL’s director of football development.

Don Shula High School Coach Of The Year Press Conference
Matt Birk, who now works at the NFL, thinks gay people do not deserve equality under the law.
Photo by Mike Lawrie/Getty Images

From 2017.

The Baltimore Ravens were, just five years ago, at the center of the national debate about same-sex marriage. Today that conversation is, at least publicly, non-existent on the team.

At the time, linebacker Brendan Ayanbadejo was an outspoken advocate for LGBT equality, including same-sex marriage. Center Matt Birk was equally outspoken, opposing equality for gay people and specifically joining the fight against equality in his home state of Minnesota.

In fact, Birk publicly advocated for an amendment to the Minnesota state constitution that would ban marriage equality in the state forever.

“The union of a man and a woman is privileged and recognized by society as "marriage" for a reason, and it's not because the government has a vested interest in celebrating the love between two people,” Birk wrote.

He lost.

Birk has also argued that same-sex couples should not have children.

“Children have a right to a mom and a dad,” he wrote in 2012.

That right does not exist in the United States Constitution or any Federal law.

Ayanbadejo hit the perfect note in his retort.

“I think just from where we’re heading, his kids will grow up to have a different opinion from him,” Ayanbadejo said, “I’ll just leave it at that.”

Ayanbadejo was, at the time, along with Minnesota Vikings punter Chris Kluwe, the most outspoken non-LGBT people in pro sports in favor of same-sex marriage. The two even penned a pro-equality Supreme Court amicus brief in 2013.

They won.

For all of the talk about how LGBT people and their issues can “distract” a team, that Ravens team won the Super Bowl that year.

Today not many Ravens talk about LGBT issues. Coach John Harbaugh said he would be open to having openly gay Michael Sam on his team, and he has an openly gay nephew with whom it seems he has a good relationship.

For the division-rival Pittsburgh Steelers, we’ve talked about Mike Tomlin’s silence on gay athletes in the past. Backup quarterback Landry Jones, who is a devout Christian and writes Bible verses on his hand, told Outsports he would welcome a gay teammate.

"There's not a conflict," Jones said. "People are people and God tells us to love everybody. And so that's what I do."