Minnesota Vikings punter Chris Kluwe created a frenzy this week that goes way beyond the sports world.
After Baltimore Ravens linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo publicly supported gay marriage, Maryland state legislator Emmett C. Burns Jr. asked the Ravens to make Ayanbadejo cease his public support for the issue.
This prompted Kluwe, who I find to be one of the most interesting athletes in all of sports, to respond to Burns with a letter posted on deadspin.com. He then posted a clean version of the letter on the (St. Paul, Minn.) Pioneer Press website. It’s definitely an interesting read and worth checking out.
The response criticized Burns for trying to infringe on Ayanbadejo’s freedom of speech and for trying to limit the freedom of a group of people.
Kluwe’s response has generated thousands of responses from others including other players, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, celebrities, television personalities and others in support of him and Ayanbadejo.
The issue gained even more traction this past week when North Dakota State College of Science linebacker Jamie Kuntz said he was kicked off his team for kissing his boyfriend.
To my knowledge, no active player in any of America’s major sports leagues — NFL, MLB, NHL or NBA — has come out as homosexual. It seems it’s only a matter of time, though.
While there still is a lot of resistance to gay people in today’s world as evidenced by Burns’ comments, and especially in sports, the response of Kluwe and others shows that support for them is gaining traction.
Jackie Robinson faced a lot of criticism when he broke through the color barrier in Major League Baseball decades ago. Today, it would seem inconceivable to think of non-white athletes being barred from playing in the major sports leagues.
Times change and people’s thinking changes.
It wasn’t long ago when I was opposed to same-sex marriage, but my views have changed. As Kluwe wrote, why should we limit the freedoms of others? Two people of the same sex getting married has no barring on me or you.
Even if you don’t support gay marriage, you should value the freedom of speech. We can’t force people to be quiet just because their views differ from ours. That’s not what the United States of America stands for.
While sports can seem so insignificant at times, they can be a vehicle of change. If nothing else, Kluwe helped to get a discussion started about what direction our nation is going.
Kyle Shaner is the sports editor for the Daily Advocate. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.