During an hour-long interview with Aaron Wilson of the Baltimore Sun early Friday morning, former Ravens linebacker and special-teams ace Brendon Ayanbadejo emphasized that he doesn't believe he was cut from the Super Bowl champions' roster because of his strong advocacy for same-sex marriage and gay rights.
Ayanbadejo indicated that he understands and accepts the decision, praising the Ravens for their support of him being an outspoken voice for gay causes. He distanced himself from his interview Thursday night with Newsday at a Straight for Equality Gala in New York where he was honored along with Minnesota Vikings punter Chris Kluwe, where he seemed to suggest that his beliefs were one of the reasons that he was released earlier that day
Ayanbadejo, who was given recognition along with Kluwe from former NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue at the event Thursday night, predicted that more than one player may come out as gay during their playing career. Ayanbadejo said the groundwork is being laid to reduce the pressure on such a player, and said as many as four players could conceivably come out simultaneously.
"I think it will happen sooner than you think," Ayanbadejo said. "We're in talks with a handful of players who are considering it. There are up to four players being talked to right now and they're trying to be organized so they can come out on the same day together. It would make a major splash and take the pressure off one guy. It would be a monumental day if a handful or a few guys come out.
"Of course, there would be backlash. If they could share the backlash, it would be more positive. It's cool. It's exciting. We're in talks with a few guys who are considering it. The NFL and organizations are already being proactive and open if a player does it and if something negative happens. We'll see what happens."
Ayanbadejo said he met with NFL vice president of player engagement Troy Vincent on Thursday and may be asked to speak to incoming players at the annual NFL rookie symposium about being sensitive toward the LGBT community. Nothing has been scheduled yet, though.
At the Super Bowl, San Francisco 49ers cornerback Chris Culliver drew heavy criticism after he said that a gay player wouldn't be accepted in the locker room. Culliver apologized and underwent sensitivity training.
"I had a great talk with Troy Vincent," said Ayanbadejo, adding that he's been asked to speak to several corporations and institutions, including his alma mater, UCLA, as a keynote speaker at the athlete graduation ceremony as well as Harvard University, Johnson and Johnson, McDonalds and Cover Girl. "The NFL wants to be proactive about what's going on with players and some of the remarks and incidents that have been happening with the LGBT community. The NFL wants me to talk to the rookie class and they are talking about potentially having talks with all the guys about LGBT sensitivity. I think all the major sports groups need to be productive and take a stance.
"Everyone has a relative or friend that's in the LGBT community, whether it's Paul Tagliabue's son or people in the Ravens organization who have relatives in the LGBT community. I gave Troy my suggestions. There are a lot of opportunities opening up, but I had nothing scheduled because I had been anticipating playing. I knew there was a possibility that I could be released. I have no regrets. I wouldn't change a single thing. It's been a good ride. If the Ravens call me in training camp, so be it. If not, I'll still be busy with a lot of great things."
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