The Ravens had their bye this week, and apparently the time away from the game afforded Baltimore Sun sports columnist Mike Preston a moment to hoist his foot from the earth and jam it into his enormous mouth. At 1:05 Sunday afternoon Preston tweeted, "Hopefully, we have seen the end of the Brendon Ayanbedejo [sic] stories and his crusade. Enough already. Actually, way too much." Almost certainly not coincidentally, Preston's own paper had just run Kevin Rector's Sunday profile of the retired Raven and his work as an advocate for gay rights in sports.
At the very least, Preston was publicly calling into question his colleague's story choice and The Sun's editors' decision-making, which would make him kind of a shitty employee and, as far as co-workers go, a complete tool. Then there's his hope that we've heard the last of these dreadful Ayanbadejo stories, a pleasant wish that this athlete Preston's covered for years, now that his playing career is finished, would fade quietly into obscurity. Sure wouldn't want to wish those guys a successful post-football career, would ya, Presto? Again, kind of a dick move, but what is this "crusade" that has so thoroughly gotten Preston's (presumably enormous) goat? What Preston called a crusade, Rector calls a "commitment to the cause" of equality for the LGBT community. Well, if I'd known that from the beginning I'd have retweeted Preston's sage observation with a hale thumbs up! The unmitigated gall of a private citizen traveling around the country, giving interviews and speaking out for equality. And how dare any media outlet pay attention to an athlete speaking out against traditional barriers in the most popular sport in the country? Disgusting.
It's hard to see how this could be read as anything but homophobic, intolerant, and ignorant. I must admit, I'm not a Preston fan. His insights tend not to be insightful, and his level of wit lies somewhere between Family Circus and a dead, flat rat. (Anyone remember Preston's Compu Coach bit about Brian Billick? There's a joke that wasn't funny the first time, but kept getting even unfunnier over eight long years.) But normally he's writing about football, which apparently he's fully qualified to do because-as he is fond of pointing out-he played offensive line at Towson University. It's just like how I took an astronomy class at St. Mary's, so I am totally good for piloting the space shuttle. Of course, when he says something stupid about football, I can read it and think, that was pretty stupid, but at least it was just about football, and move on.
When he says something like this, it kind of makes me want to hit him with a boat oar. I've been following the internet murmur, and there's a vocal camp that defends Preston. The argument seems to be that Preston believes football players should just shut their pie-holes when it comes to non-football matters. I guess I get it, football players should stick to what they know, just like sports writers should stick to sports and keep their giant noses out of the feature-reporting business. The point is, there's no room for athletes in our society to make their opinions known on matters of morals and ethics, which is why Preston so vehemently attacks athletes who use their positions to promote their religious views on the field and in interviews. Just imagine Preston's outrage if a player, maybe a Tim Tebow, made his beliefs known through some sort of end-zone prayer; or if Ray Lewis, for instance, peppered his post-game interview with religious references. Oh, there'd be hell to pay for sure.
The point is, sport is about sport, not a platform for promoting some dumb jock's pet causes. Imagine if a Raven, say, I don't know, Ray Rice, took every opportunity to promote his "crusade" against bullying? That would be flat-out wrong, wouldn't it? And Rice would have Mike Preston to deal with. Or say the whole NFL took the entire month of October to talk about breast cancer, even going so far as to change the uniforms. Surely Preston would levy his virtuous outrage there as well. Thank the unblemished-by-message spirit of sport that none of that has come to pass.
Clearly sport is not the venue for social change. Just look at past athletes who have dragged human rights into the arena. In the 1968 Olympics, runners Tommie Smith and John Carlos raised their black-gloved fists on the medal podium in salute to the civil rights movement and were pilloried by the media of the day. Now we look back on those brave sports writers' valiant efforts against those uppity athletes as the pinnacle of heroism. And how about tennis stars Billie Jean King and Martina Navratilova and their fight for women's rights? I'm pretty sure the Human Rights Campaign gave Navratilova their National Equality Award ironically. Just imagine if Muhammad Ali had been a vocal critic of America's unequal playing field? We probably wouldn't consider him the greatest.
Preston's comment was insensitive, idiotic, and ignorant at best, spiteful and homophobic at worst. I reached out to Preston and The Sun for comment and was referred to the marketing department. So instead I squoze a Glad-sack full of gravy. It offered about as much insight as Preston and seemed to know more about football. Saying this is about wanting to keep sports about sports strikes me as like saying the Civil War was about states' rights while ignoring the fact that the right in question was slavery. I'm not equating antebellum slavery to the bigotry and legal barriers faced by the LGBT community; the fact is we've come a long way. That doesn't change the fact that we've still got a long way to go, and it's people like Brendon Ayanbadejo standing up for what they believe is right, despite the asinine comments of people like Preston, that will get us there.
Hopefully we have seen the end of Mike Preston's columns and his crusade. Enough already. Actually, way too much: Baltimore Sun, fire Mike Preston.