NFL Players Kluwe and Ayanbadejo Against DOMA
Minnesota Vikings punter Chris Kluwe and Baltimore Ravens linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo aren’t strangers to the spotlight when asked about their thoughts about civil rights. However, they rarely appear together in an interview setting together, until they joined forces on “The David Baumann Show” on Sports Talk Florida part of 1040 The Team Tampa & 1080 The Team Orlando to discuss gay marriage, equal rights and whether one day soon an NFL player will publicly declare he is gay. Below is a transcript of the entire interview:
David Baumann: Welcome back to the David Baumann show on 1040 and 1080 The Team. We are absolutely thrilled to be joined by some equal rights activists, NFL players Brendon Ayanbadejo of the Baltimore Ravens and Chris Kluwe of the Minnesota Vikings. These guys are doing so much work for equal rights, it’s really unbelievable. Chris, Brendon, this has been a very, very busy week. Across social media, we’ve seen a lot of people are using the equals sign as their profile. Brendon, you had a very busy week in Washington (DC). First, take us through your week and what sort of progress is being made?
Brendon Ayanbadejo: I think we’re into uncharted territory here in the United States and the fight for equal rights continues. You hit the nail on the head. A lot of people like to call it LBGT rights, but more than anything it is equal rights indeed. On Wednesday I was in DC and got hear the stories from the victims, the people that are not treated equal as our heterosexual counterparts and how their lives are affected by DOMA and how their lives are affected Proposition 8 in California and it’s really heartbreaking to hear. It’s great the majority of Americans are now siding on the side of love and equality so we’re coming a long way and it’s a very special, monumental week for it all to go down.
David Baumann: Chris, are you on that same wavelength? Progress being made? A very important week?
Chris Kluwe: Yeah, yeah, it’s definitely. You can see progress being made. Lots of people are talking about the issue and hopefully the Supreme Court does the right thing and realizes there are already precedents set in this matter in the case of Loving v Virginia that marriage is an inalienable right that American citizens enjoy. The fact is, gay couples are not allowed to enjoy that right, right now and that’s discrimination, you can’t word it any other way.
David Baumann: Brendon, what was it like to get that standing ovation the other day when you said, “I talked to that man about my wife and kids,” when you said one day there will be an openly gay player in the NFL, then you finished it up with this, “one day that man will talk to me about his husband and kids.” What was it like to get that standing ovation?
Brendon Ayanbadejo: We’re just talking common sense types of things where we have the privilege to bring our wife and kids everywhere we go. There’s 1200 rights and privileges you get from being married that the disenfranchised LGBT community does not have, so just to merely talk about something and have it be accepted is a great thing, and we’re trying to even do more and change laws, and change society so everything equal. It was great to get the standing ovation, but it was a really motivating time for me to hear the victims talk and really just give me an extra vigor to fight so much harder for this. Myself and Chris, we’ve been working so hard, but I haven’t really been to a rally or somewhere where I got to hear the stories first hand. There’s things that we always talk about what we know about, but to hear it from the victims and see the tears come out of their eyes and hear the cracking in their voice was just so motivating and empowering.
David Baumann: Chris, what did you think when you heard that?
Chris Kluwe: I know for the both of us, we’re not in this to get recognized. We’re in this because it’s the right thing to do.
David Baumann: Of course.
Chris Kluwe: It’s to treat people the right way. Hopefully we get to a day where we don’t have to recognize people for doing the right thing because it’s the accepted thing to do. It’s awesome to be recognized for doing the right thing, but like I said, it would be ideal that everybody did it because that was what you were supposed to do.
David Baumann: Pretty plain and simple. There was the reports by CBS Sports earlier in the week, that there will be a eventually and inevitably a player, more than just one player in the NFL eventually, will be gay. Chris, on that train of thought, is the NFL ready for it? And to be on the stage NFL and to have a strong voice and a loud voice and a motivational voice for those in that fight together… How is that progress going?
Chris Kluwe: Well, there’s been a lot of progress made. Especially with groups like Athlete Ally, which both Brendon and I are involved with and bunch of players like Scott Fujita and quite a few others. It’s basically providing a supportive stage so when that player decides to come out, he knows he will have backing from other players in the league. That he won’t be alone, that he won’t have to go through and distractions and abuse or anything without having people by his side saying — look, those people aren’t the real NFL. Those people are whatever. Don’t even worry about them. We’re the ones here supporting you and you know what – be free to be who you are.
David Baumann: This is Chris Kluwe of the Minnesota Vikings and Brendon Ayanbadejo of the Baltimore Ravens. Scott Fujita just wrote a column in the New York Times and I thought it was pretty moving when he finished it by saying he just can’t wait for the day my daughters ask him – “what was all that fuss about?” Because, Brendon, like Chris said, this is a lot of common sense stuff right? We will get over this hump one day in society, won’t we?
Brendon Ayanbadejo: Oh, absolutely. We’re putting a lot of time and effort in it right now. It’s just a fundamental right. It’s just something the Constitution actually is supposed to protect, but it’s not enforcing right now. We’ve seen it ever since Loving v Virginia, like Chris had said. We’ve seen it when women didn’t have rights and couldn’t vote. It’s something our society has always been fighting for. Can we evolve? Can we get past this? Let’s attack issues that affect even more people, but let’s get past this. Let’s get everybody to get treated equally. Let’s get equality for everybody and then we can attack more issues after this. We’re not quite there yet, but it’s great we’re on the majority and winning the game finally for the first time on this issue.
David Baumann: Yeah, Chris, on that same token, on that same issue. 10, 20, 30 years down the line, are we going to look back and roll our eyes that this whole issue that there ever needed to be a fight?
Chris Kluwe: Oh definitely, because you look at the way kids are being brought up today and it’s more tolerant and more acceptance and really big on care. You can look at the large part and the issues facing the Republican Party that the fact that they are losing a lot of young voters on the issue because young people are like – what is the big deal? We have gay friends, they’re just like everybody else. Why should we discriminate against them? It’s something, like I said on a couple other places, once the old people die off, it won’t be an issue anymore because nobody think about it.
David Baumann: Guys… So thankful for your time here on the program. Brendon, you and Chris play for different teams, you’re on different rosters, but it really seems like you’ve been teammates for quite some time in this fight. This has been a fight that has started to be joined by many other teammates on many other teams and many other leagues and you can connect with the general public as well. You can Chris teammates, you think?
Brendon Ayanbadejo: Oh, absolutely. I always tell people there’s 34 teams in the NFL. There’s the 32 teams you know about, then the owners and the players. We have a very strong union and we unite and support each other. Chris has helped me out immensely. It’s great we also have our union president Dominique Foxworth has made a statement for LGBT rights and he believes in them and he publicly has stated that and our executive director DeMaurice Smith has made a public stance on LGBT rights and marriage equality. We are part of the NFLPA, we’re a team. Chris and I went to UCLA at different periods, but the same school and guys all across the league, we train with each other in the offseason. Some of us have played against each other in high school and in college. So, The NFL is a close-knit fraternity and most of the time we have each other’s backs on the issues.
David Baumann: Chris, was it ever hard for you to speak out on this topic or was it always natural? With that, is it a product of your family, your upbringing? How come you guys are really able to take a stand together and fight so freely?
Chris Kluwe: I think anybody who follows my twitter handle knows I have no problem speaking my mind.
David Baumann: Brendon too! (laughter)
Chris Kluwe: Yeah, exactly! For me, the way I was raised, my parents always told me to treat me to treat people how I would want to be treated. It’s a very simple philosophy and it’s very easy to live by. I would recommend people try it out. When I saw the situation happening, to me it almost provoked this primal anger at this injustice — the fact that people aren’t being treated equally because I’m free to live my own life. I’m free to get married to my wife and other people are not and they’re American citizens just like I am and that’s not what this country should stand for.
David Baumann: Brendon, on that same note. Is it your family upbringing? Is it that same sort of thing Chris just said – with treating people how you would want to be treated?
Brendon Ayanbadejo: Yeah, for me it’s very similar to Chris and it’s very personal. It’s in my DNA. You go back to the 60’s where interracial marriage wasn’t allowed in some states. Chris had touched on Loving v Virginia so luckily I’m a product of the 70’s. My father is Nigerian and my mother is Irish American so you can’t get any blacker or any whiter and to have those two be able to come together and have me and to think there was a time in the United States where they couldn’t do that is pretty ludicrous. So, I’m looking forward to the time, and I’m hoping it’s not in 10 or 20 years, I’m hoping it’s in 2-3-4-5 years we look back and we ponder – Wow, can you believe we went to a Supreme Court hearing and we had to fight DOMA and we had to fight Proposition 8 and I was there on the steps of the Supreme Court and look back and all this stuff will be behind us. It’s pretty fundamental. I grew up in Santa Cruz, so did Chris. We’re a little bit more open-minded out there and it’s still crazy to me that Proposition 8 is still in effect in California and we have to repeal it being a proud Californian, but Chris is right completely that there are other Americans that are just like us in every single way except besides for who they choose to fall in love with and it’s pretty ludicrous to think about.
David Baumann: Chris, is this fight getting easier?
Chris Kluwe: I’d say yes and no. It’s easier in that there are more and more people starting to join in and realizing this is an issue, but on the other hand, you still have this push back from people that simply will never get it. They don’t understand why you have to be able empathize with other people. They don’t understand how to put themselves in someone else’s shoes. The main issue with that is that it speaks to a deeper underlying problem with our society in that we don’t treat people how we would want to be treated. If you look at it historically, societies that do that inevitably collapse because they have social inequities they have division and that leads to conflict. Ideally we’ll get past this and we’ll figure it out and hopefully we’ll figure out the underlying problem: We need to treat everybody with respect.
David Baumann: Brendon, what immediate progress needs to be made within the next year?
Brendon Ayanbadejo: Well, we have to have the laws supporting us. I think it’s great that we have the majority of Americans supporting us, but if the laws don’t support you, then you’re still disenfranchised. You’re still a second-class citizen. In June, we’re supposed to hear something back from the Supreme Court and hopefully it’ll be in our favor. It’s a shame that we even have to vote for equal rights because equal rights is not somebody’s opinion, it’s not something that should be voted on. It’s guaranteed in the Constitution that every man is created equal and has equal protection under the law. I’m looking forward to the law changing. Like Chris said, it’s really difficult. It’s the easiest thing to say – everybody should be treated equal, but the fight is the hardest fight I’ve ever had to fight because I don’t know exactly what it takes to flip that switch to make somebody understand. And you have intelligent people on the other side who are opponents to this issue and oppose equal rights and marriage equality. How do you flip the switch? How do you get them going from one side to the other? We’ve seen a lot of the Republican jump on board with us and sometimes a family member comes out, or one of their children comes out and flips the switch, but how do we make it so people that don’t necessarily have a family member that’s gay, then how do we get them on our side? Once we do that, then we’ve figured out a major way to get it turned around so we do look back on it like racism and slavery that’s so foreign to us.
David Baumann: Brendon, were you recently misquoted regarding statements that within a year we’ll see a gay player in the NFL? Was that a misquote?
Brendon Ayanbadejo: Oh yeah, I mean, how could I give a time and date? There’s already gay players in the NFL, there has always been gay players in the NFL but when will the player come out? I have no idea. With all the media reports that are coming out – they are saying maybe this next season or the next season, but the sooner it happens the better it’s going to change and help so much change society and help kids that are just being effected by bullying and self-esteem issues. They can look up and say ‘Oh my God, there’s this NFL player. I look up to this person. He’s gay and he’s in the NFL and living his dream and doing everything he can do for gay rights and whatnot by claiming who he is and being proud of who he is.’ It’s just going to help people so much, but yeah, I was misquoted. I never gave a time frame, but hopefully sooner than later.
David Baumann: Yeah, and I can only hope that it’s going to help these players one day. Not just the NFL, but all these leagues and players who have been hiding it for so long with all their fears or whatever their reasons may be. Chris, are you on that same wavelength? It just seems like it can open up the door for so much support. I hope this day is soon. Chris?
Chris Kluwe: Yeah, definitely. You’d like to see people have the freedom to be who they are and not hide themselves. Like Brendon said, it’s great if a professional sports player comes out, not really just for that league, but also because it’s for the children. It’s for young children, teenagers and young adults who might otherwise be saying, ‘my life really sucks, I’m being treated like crap’, but oh OK, now someone else has come out. I can identify with this person. This person has gone through it and they have made it and I have the courage to get through it myself. It’s a shame that opponents of same-sex marriage don’t seem to realize what they’re doing to young adults and kids by saying the way you are is not right. Nobody should say that to a child. That’s F-d up.
David Baumann: It’s common sense. Guys, phenomenal spot. I really appreciate this conversation. No need to give you a standing ovation because it’s just a couple guys having a conversation about common sense. Thank you so much for the time. Brendon Ayanbadejo of the Ravens and Chris Kluwe of the Vikings.
Full Interview :
The views expressed in this article do not represent Sports Talk Florida, Sports Talk 1080 in Orlando, Sports Talk 1040 in Tampa and Genesis Communications.