In an interview with The Baltimore Sun, NFL Players Association president Domonique Foxworth said Friday that he was disappointed in Maryland House of Delegates member Emmett C. Burns Jr., a Democrat from Baltimore County, who sent a letter to Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti that urged him to silence Brendon Ayanbadejo. The Ravens linebacker has used his platform to voice his support for same-sex marriage.
"I don't know if I can come up with a strong enough word, but his request was asinine," Foxworth said.
"It was frustrating and disappointing, but I was encouraged by the support that Brendon received from the football world, from Chris Kluwe from the Vikings -- his letter on Deadspin may not be appropriate for the newspaper, but it was nice to see that support -- and the support that the Ravens have given him was great," said Foxworth, who played for the Ravens from 2009 to 2011. "Even the fans were really supportive of him."
Foxworth, who has had a busy day with suspensions being overturned in the New Orleans Saints bounty case, got fired up when first heard about the letter Burns wrote and wanted to stand up for his former teammate.
"I guess the really surprising thing was that once I heard about it, I looked up who Emmitt Burns was," Foxworth said. "Just to see a 70-something-year-old man who grew up in Jackson, Mississippi, who shares a first name with Emmitt Till, who was essentially a martyr for freedom of speech and freedom of expression… For someone who has had that unique life experience to encourage silencing an individual, you would assume it would go against what everyone someone like that would believe. I can't imagine that a black person growing up in Mississippi would have ever been in favor of quieting someone's free speech. It's odd."
He says the NFLPA will always support players who use the platform that comes with being a professional athlete to voice their opinions on social issues, even if some people may disagree with those opinions.
"A player should do what they're comfortable with," said Foxworth, a Randallstown native who attended college at Maryland. "I don't think football players are different than any other human beings, with the exception of having a large platform. I think that's all the reason to speak out. Whether people agree with what you're saying or not, it's your right to say it. I don't think any social issues have been solved by silencing one group."
He added: "I think Brendon's commendable. To step out into the fire and say something controversial, that's not something that comes lightly."