"To me, silence was consent," he said.
He said one of his proudest moments was seeing same-sex marriage pass in Maryland, after campaigning for it alongside Gov. Martin O'Malley.
The first paragraph of the biography on Ayanbadejo's personal website, brendonayanbadejo.net, says, "Ayanbadejo, former Baltimore Raven and member of the Super Bowl XLVII Champion team, is a man who understands both the pain of discrimination and the gain of personal joy that comes from embracing an unwavering belief in equal rights for all."
Since leaving football, Ayanbadejo has taken on new career aspirations. He has become a Fox Sports contributor and plans to open a chain of gyms in California in November. At the time he was cut from the Ravens' roster, he was due a $940,000 base salary, entering the second year of a three-year $3.2 million contract.
At the same time, he has expanded his efforts for gay rights. He recently acted as guest editor of a special sports edition of the Washington Blade, an LGBT newspaper.
"He's one of those folks who is highly educated, who's taken the time to educate himself on a topic that he feels is important," said Fernandez, who advised Ayanbadejo on his website design. "Some athletes who haven't necessarily done that have tried to talk about something, and they find themselves just putting their foot in their mouths."
Sam Marchiano agreed. She's a founding board member of Athlete Ally, led by former University of Maryland wrestler Hudson Taylor.
Ayanbadejo became involved in the two-year-old organization early on, Marchiano said, and then did something surprising: He kept becoming more involved.
"He grew and grew and grew with our organization," Marchiano said. "That his commitment was so big and he was so involved, it was like, 'Oh wow, this person is a potential board candidate.' "
Ayanbadejo was named to the board in July, she said. And he's not only attending board meetings but has been working on strategy for the coming Winter Olympics, focusing on a tenet of the International Olympic Committee's charter that bans discrimination, known as Principle 6.
After Ayanbadejo's talk and Q&A at McDaniel, students said he had an impact with them.
"The points he made were really, really good. I didn't realize how difficult it was to be in the NFL and have a politician come in and say, 'You need to be quiet,'" said senior communications major Elyssa Bidwell, 21.
"He's putting his reputation on the line talking about this stuff," said Matt Kammer, 19, a sophomore business major. "I thought it was cool he was willing to do this."