Emmett Burns is a Democratic member of the Maryland Legislature, representing Baltimore since 1995. He’s big into adoption, black entrepreneurship, education. He served on the 1999 Task Force to Study the History and Legacy of Slavery in Maryland. He still serves on a drug abuse committee and served four years as deputy majority whip. He has a doctorate from the University of Pittsburgh, and rose to Captain in the U.S. Air Force. And he’s a minister. His advanced degrees are in divinity.
That shouldn’t be held against him. But now it must be. Because his alleged Christianity is what drove him on Aug. 29 to write one of the most idiotic and bigoted public letters of the year (he cc’d it to “media”), to Steve Bisciotti, owner of the Baltimore Ravens, the NFL football team. It is only the latest example of the abuses and exploitation of Christianity in the name of “family” or “traditional values,” euphemisms for intolerance and regression, and submission to patriarchal notions of what a family ought to be. It is also one of an endless series of examples of religion’s—a particular sort of religion, anyway—perversion of American principles of equal rights.
Burns was upset that Brendon Ayanbadejo, a linebacker with the Ravens, voiced his support for gay marriage. Ayanbadejo did so in a video by Marylanders for Marriage Equality, an organization supporting Question 6, a Maryland initiative on the Nov. 6 ballot that would either preserve a 2012 law legalizing gay marriage or repeal it. Burns, of course, voted against the law (the House passed it 72-67, the Senate passed it 25-22, Gov. Martin O’Malley signed it on March 1).
Brendon Ayanbadejo Speaks for Marriage Equality
Burns’s sour grapes have no bounds. He’s now a water-carrier for such misnomers as the Maryland Family Alliance and other Maryland maws of mullahs. He doesn’t raise a peep whenever a Raven endorses Nike, Gatorade, Red Bull, Best Buy, the Marines or Chesapeake Urology Associates (that’s the new gig for Qadry Ismail, the Ravens’ television and radio announcer and a former linebacker). But he had a problem with Brendon Ayanbadejo doing the video you see to the right.
Burns had every right to answer that innocent bit of advocacy with advocacy of his own. He could have volunteered a video for that family alliance or for any group of his choice. He could have taken Ayanbadejo head on if he wanted to, debated him (presumably with evidence) over whether children can be in stable homes if those homes are led by gays or lesbians. Others certainly do freely and happily (Florida’s own Tim Tebow, when not genuflecting to sap, is a celebrated offensive coordinator against women’s rights). Burns could have even used the power of his office to attack Ayanbadejo randomly and baselessly, as opponents of gay marriage usually do (because beyond their reliance on the fancies and cherry-picked bigotries of Scriptures, they have not one whit of evidence they could present against the soundness of gay marriage). That would have been Burns’s right, just as it was Ayanbadejo’s to do his 36-second video.
But that’s not what Burns chose to do. Instead, he used that old bully tactic of self-important heavies who go behind their victim’s back and bitch to their employer, hoping to intimidate both into compliance by means of embarrassment or coercion.
And this is what Burns wrote the owner of the Baltimore Ravens, on the Maryland Legislature’s stationery, which is his first offense: “As a Delegate to the Maryland General Assembly and a Baltimore Ravens Football fan, I find it inconceivable that one of your players, Mr. Brendon Ayanbadejo, would publicly endorse Same-Sex marriage, specifically, as a Ravens Football player. Many of my constituents and your football supporters are appalled and aghast that a member of the Ravens Football Team would step into this controversial divide and try to sway public opinion one way or the other. Many of your fans are opposed to such a view and feel it has no place in a sport that is strictly for pride, entertainment and excitement. I believe Mr. Ayanbadejo should concentrate on football and steer clear of dividing the fan base.”
“I am requesting that you take the necessary action, as a National Football Franchise Owner, to inhibit such expressions from your employee and that he be ordered to cease and desist such injurious actions. I know of no other NFL player who has done what Mr. Ayanbadejo is doing.”
One wonders if Burns would have been as outraged had Ayanbadejo spoken up, say, for the Holocaust Museum (let’s not forget the Nazis’ extermination of gays) or for the new Martin Luther King memorial in D.C. Burns’s constituents should be appalled and aghast that he is using his office in hopes of silencing an individual over a human rights issue not known to have much resonance among football’s millionaire players, at least not publicly, considering how far behind dollars and endorsements the social consciences of todays’ athletes are. There are notable exceptions, whether in support of unions or gay and lesbian teens.
Burns’s letter is just as offensive for implying that football should somehow be even more immune from morality than its ranks of criminals and brutes already are. To the Ravens’s credit, they were quick to issue a statement defending their linebacker. “Ravens’ General “We support Brendon’s right to freedom of speech under the First Amendment,” Manager Dick Cass said. Not exactly a rousing endorsement, and a missed opportunity to do just that, but better than silence: at least they know where justice falls on the matter. And Burns is coming out of this looking like the fool.
But it was left up to Chris Kluwe, a punter for the Vikings who knows how to go long, to put Burns in his place, with the sort of flair that would have made Rabelais, Kurt Vonnegut, H.L. Mencken and Gore Vidal prouder than queers at a Harvey Fierstein revue, and prouder than some of us lesser straights, who now Tebow to Kluwe. It would do him, and of course Burns, a grave injustice to merely quote a few lines from the letter, let alone do what lesser media have been doing since he wrote the letter—bleep out his most elegant phrases with asterisks, dashes and ellipses. So let us reproduce it in full, from “fromunda” stains to lustful cockmonsters to holy fucking shitballs, with reverence and admiration, because when it comes to bigotry, it serves no one to dignify offense with any form of civility. To slightly paraphrase Jefferson, the tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the bile of Vikings against tyrants.
Chris Kluwe’s letter, fisrt published by Deadspin:
Dear Emmett C. Burns Jr.,
I find it inconceivable that you are an elected official of Maryland’s state government. Your vitriolic hatred and bigotry make me ashamed and disgusted to think that you are in any way responsible for shaping policy at any level. The views you espouse neglect to consider several fundamental key points, which I will outline in great detail (you may want to hire an intern to help you with the longer words):
1. As I suspect you have not read the Constitution, I would like to remind you that the very first, the VERY FIRST Amendment in this founding document deals with the freedom of speech, particularly the abridgment of said freedom. By using your position as an elected official (when referring to your constituents so as to implicitly threaten the Ravens organization) to state that the Ravens should “inhibit such expressions from your employees,” more specifically Brendon Ayanbadejo, not only are you clearly violating the First Amendment, you also come across as a narcissistic fromunda stain. What on earth would possess you to be so mind-boggingly stupid? It baffles me that a man such as yourself, a man who relies on that same First Amendment to pursue your own religious studies without fear of persecution from the state, could somehow justify stifling another person’s right to speech. To call that hypocritical would be to do a disservice to the word. Mindfucking obscenely hypocritical starts to approach it a little bit.
2. “Many of your fans are opposed to such a view and feel it has no place in a sport that is strictly for pride, entertainment, and excitement.” Holy fucking shitballs. Did you seriously just say that, as someone who’s “deeply involved in government task forces on the legacy of slavery in Maryland”? Have you not heard of Kenny Washington? Jackie Robinson? As recently as 1962 the NFL still had segregation, which was only done away with by brave athletes and coaches daring to speak their mind and do the right thing, and you’re going to say that political views have “no place in a sport”? I can’t even begin to fathom the cognitive dissonance that must be coursing through your rapidly addled mind right now; the mental gymnastics your brain has to tortuously contort itself through to make such a preposterous statement are surely worthy of an Olympic gold medal (the Russian judge gives you a 10 for “beautiful oppressionism”).
3. This is more a personal quibble of mine, but why do you hate freedom? Why do you hate the fact that other people want a chance to live their lives and be happy, even though they may believe in something different than you, or act different than you? How does gay marriage, in any way shape or form, affect your life? If gay marriage becomes legal, are you worried that all of a sudden you’ll start thinking about penis? “Oh shit. Gay marriage just passed. Gotta get me some of that hot dong action!” Will all of your friends suddenly turn gay and refuse to come to your Sunday Ticket grill-outs? (Unlikely, since gay people enjoy watching football too.)
I can assure you that gay people getting married will have zero effect on your life. They won’t come into your house and steal your children. They won’t magically turn you into a lustful cockmonster. They won’t even overthrow the government in an orgy of hedonistic debauchery because all of a sudden they have the same legal rights as the other 90 percent of our population—rights like Social Security benefits, child care tax credits, Family and Medical Leave to take care of loved ones, and COBRA healthcare for spouses and children. You know what having these rights will make gays? Full-fledged American citizens just like everyone else, with the freedom to pursue happiness and all that entails. Do the civil-rights struggles of the past 200 years mean absolutely nothing to you?
In closing, I would like to say that I hope this letter, in some small way, causes you to reflect upon the magnitude of the colossal foot in mouth clusterfuck you so brazenly unleashed on a man whose only crime was speaking out for something he believed in. Best of luck in the next election; I’m fairly certain you might need it.
P.S. I’ve also been vocal as hell about the issue of gay marriage so you can take your “I know of no other NFL player who has done what Mr. Ayanbadejo is doing” and shove it in your close-minded, totally lacking in empathy piehole and choke on it. Asshole.