Ayanbadejo report may be peek into future

Ayanbadejo report may be peek into future
April 6, 2013, 3:15 am
Share This Post

The brief brouhaha over the Ravens’ release of linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo is instructive as a lesson about one of the issues that will arise whenever the NFL has its first openly gay players.

First, to backtrack: After the Ravens cut Ayanbadejo, an initial report had him questioning whether the club was letting him go because of his advocacy of equal rights for gays and support of same-sex marriage. However, Ayanbadejo quickly sought to set the record straight, saying the Ravens were supportive of his efforts and he understood the decision to release him was strictly a football one.

However, even if the first story never had arisen, there would have been those wondering that very thing, whether the Ravens wished to sever ties with a player who holds — and is not shy about expressing — what are controversial views to many people.

Let’s extrapolate, then, to a time — maybe not long from now — when a team has an openly gay player on the roster. Then suppose the club decides to cut him. There could be sound reasons — he makes too much money for his level of performance, and the team is near the salary cap. The club can bring in a younger, cheaper player of equal or better ability. He has lost a step. Any number of normal NFL determinations, the kind clubs make all the time.

But …

Someone is bound to raise the question of whether he was cut because he’s gay. The player himself may raise the question. The coach, the general manager and the owner may find themselves having to defend this roster move, trying to explain that, yes, it was just a football decision. And, still, some people won’t believe them.

Is that a hassle an NFL team wants to deal with? Add it to the other reasons that an openly gay NFL player may discover it’s difficult to find a team to play for.