Can the Super Bowl be a platform for same-sex marriage?
Baltimore Ravens linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo hopes so, and dreams of celebrating a victory in New Orleans two Sundays from now by dancing with Ellen Degeneres.
According to New York Times columnist Frank Bruni, Ayanbadejo awoke early Monday morning after his team's surprise victory over the New England Patriots to write an email message to "Brian Ellner, a leading marriage-equality advocate with whom he had worked before, and Michael Skolnik, the political director for Russell Simmons, a hip-hop mogul who has become involved in many issues, including same-sex marriage."
“Is there anything I can do for marriage equality or anti- bullying over the next couple of weeks to harness this Super Bowl media?” he wrote. The time was 3:40 AM.
During a phone call with Bruni Tuesday, Ayanbadejo said it was his "Jerry Maguire" email.
In the hit 1996 film, Maguire played by Cruise has a startling moment of clarity while in bed at a sports agents' conference, and then pens a mission statement which he delivers to all the attendees outlining a better way for agents to handle their clients.
Days later, Maguire is fired for his honesty.
“It’s one of those times when you’re really passionate and in your zone,” Ayanbadejo told Bruni. "And I got to thinking about all kinds of things, and I thought: how can we get our message out there?”
According to Bruni, Ayanbadejo’s support for gay rights comes from childhood connections to a diverse group that included many that were openly gay or lesbian. He once lived in an LGBT dorm at the University of California, Santa Cruz, where his stepfather was the resident director.
“I was raised around gay people in a very liberal society,” Ayanbadejo told Bruni during an interview in September. “Discrimination was never allowed.”
Ayanbadejo's views on this issue came front and center last year when the legalization of same-sex marriage was being debated in Maryland, and he voiced his support for it.
Bruni reported that this prompted a state lawmaker opposing same-sex marriage to ask the Ravens owner to shut Ayanbadejo up.
Of course, as Ayanbadejo told Bruni, not all of his teammates support same-sex marriage. Last October, Ravens center Matt Birk made a statement in support of traditional marriage in Minnesota.
Bruni, who himself is openly gay, neglected to share that with his readers.
Moving forward, Ayanbadejo is talking to gay-rights advocates about how to "seize this moment" of his appearance in the Super Bowl.
"He’s been swapping emails with Hudson Taylor, the founder and executive director of Athlete Ally, a group dedicated to ridding sports at all levels—high school, college, professional—of homophobia," Bruni wrote.
“He’s so excited and ready to take a stand in whatever way he can,” Taylor told Bruni. “He is leveraging the biggest sports stage in the world.”
But that's not all.
According to Bruni, Ayanbadejo dreams of winning the Super Bowl, getting a ring, and then appearing on Ellen DeGeneres’s talk show "where the two of them could discuss the importance of treating gays and lesbians with more respect."
Ayanbadejo and Degeneres apparently have exchanged messages on Twitter.
“That’s my ultimate goal after the Super Bowl,” Ayanbadejo told Bruni. “To go on Ellen’s show, to be dancing with her, to bust a move with her.”
A man's got to have a dream I guess.
So will this Super Bowl become a stage to advance same-sex marriage?