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This NFL Player Said What?

  • Jim Daly Jim Daly is president and chief executive officer of Focus on the Family, a non-profit organization dedicated to helping families thrive.
  • Updated Oct 04, 2012

Posted by Jim_Daly Oct 3, 2012

And you thought the matter of replacement referees was controversial.

Earlier this season, Baltimore Ravens linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo publicly expressed support for same-sex marriage.

In response, Maryland state delegate Emmett C. Burns Jr., a Ravens fan, wrote a letter to the Ravens owner, Steve Bisciotti, asking him to prohibit his players from offering political commentary.

Outraged by the Maryland politician’s letter, Minnesota Vikings punter Chris Kluwe penned a lewd, rude and profanity-laden letter to Mr. Burns, chastising him for not only encouraging censorship but also supporting traditional one-man, one-woman marriage.

If any of this had occurred on the field, penalty flags would have been flying in every direction.

The escalating controversy led Matt Birk, a center for the Baltimore Ravens, to author an opinion piece in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune. His measured, well-reasoned and candid reply is, frankly, refreshing. I’d like to share an excerpt of the piece with you below.

Here is an excerpt of Mr. Birk’s (pictured right) opinion piece:

Children have a right to a mom and a dad, and I realize that this doesn't always happen. Through the work my wife and I do at pregnancy resource centers and underprivileged schools, we have witnessed firsthand the many heroic efforts of single mothers and fathers -- many of whom work very hard to provide what's best for their kids.

But recognizing the efforts of these parents and the resiliency of some (not all, unfortunately) of these kids, does not then give society the right to dismiss the potential long-term effects on a child of not knowing or being loved by his or her mother or father. Each plays a vital role in the raising of a child.

Marriage is in trouble right now -- admittedly, for many reasons that have little to do with same-sex unions. In the last few years, political forces and a culture of relativism have replaced "I am my brother's keeper" and "love your neighbor as yourself" with "live and let live" and "if it feels good, go ahead and do it."

The effects of no-fault divorce, adultery, and the nonchalant attitude toward marriage by some have done great harm to this sacred institution. How much longer do we put the desires of adults before the needs of kids? Why are we not doing more to lift up and strengthen the institution of marriage?

Same-sex unions may not affect my marriage specifically, but it will affect my children -- the next generation. Ideas have consequences, and laws shape culture. Marriage redefinition will affect the broader well-being of children and the welfare of society. As a Christian and a citizen, I am compelled to care about both.

I am speaking out on this issue because it is far too important to remain silent. People who are simply acknowledging the basic reality of marriage between one man and one woman are being labeled as "bigots" and "homophobic." Aren't we past that as a society?

Don't we all have family members and friends whom we love who have same-sex attraction? Attempting to silence those who may disagree with you is always un-American, but especially when it is through name-calling, it has no place in respectful conversation.

A defense of marriage is not meant as an offense to any person or group. All people should be afforded their inalienable American freedoms. There is no opposition between providing basic human rights to everyone and preserving marriage as the sacred union of one man and one woman.


As you can imagine, Mr. Birk has received criticism for his comments and, just as he predicted, is being labeled “homophobic” in social media circles. I was encouraged to see that his teammate, the aforementioned Brendon Ayanbadejo, came to his defense on Twitter Monday night.

“I don’t think he’s homophobic, Ayanbadejo tweeted, “Matt Birk is an amazing father, teammate, man! Even if he and I disagree on marriage equality we agree on 95% of other issues.”

Of course, the term “marriage equality” is a loaded term that’s been co-opted by same-sex marriage supporters, but I am heartened to see this degree of dialogue between two professionals.


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