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Ayanbadejo: Up to four NFL players could come out “sooner than you think”
Former Bears linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo is a Super Bowl champion and three-time Pro Bowl selection.
At the Super Bowl, he told the Sun-Times that he doesn’t deserve any special credit because of his upbringing in Santa Cruz.
“I’m surprised that doing what’s right, in this day and age, really shouldn’t be applauded. That surprises me,” he said. “But I’m not surprised because I was the first athlete to talk about it at a time where not too many people are talking about it.
“Since then, other athletes have been open about it. We’re headed in the right direction.”
During an interview Thursday with the Baltimore Sun, Ayanbadejo said up to four NFL players could come out and that it “will happen sooner than you think.”
“We’re in talks with a handful of players who are considering it. There are up to four players being talked to right now and they’re trying to be organized so they can come out on the same day together,” he told the Sun. “It would make a major splash and take the pressure off one guy.
“It would be a monumental day if a handful or a few guys come out.”
On Thursday night, Ayanbadejo, who was released Wednesday by the Baltimore Ravens, was honored along with Minnesota Vikings punter Chris Kluwe at the Straight for Equality Gala in New York.
Ayanbadejo said there would be a backlash if players did come out.
“If they could share the backlash, it would be more positive. It’s cool,” he said. “It’s exciting. We’re in talks with a few guys who are considering it. The NFL and organizations are already being proactive and open if a player does it and if something negative happens. We’ll see what happens.”
Ayanbadejo was born in Chicago but spent his formative years in Santa Cruz, about 72 miles south of San Francisco.
He told the Sun-Times that he was raised in an open-minded community.
“There are a lot of things I learned when I was 10, 11 or 12 are coming to fruition today, whether it’s holistic medicine, or equal rights or even marijuana rights,” he said. “Those are things people in Santa Cruz were already doing. It’s something I grew up with and it’s in a place that had that type of open thinking.”
Not to mention his mother is Irish-American and his father is Nigerian.
Former Bears teammate Hunter Hillenmeyer told the Sun-Times that “he’s always danced to the beat of another drum.”
“And I mean that as a compliment.”
Undrafted out of UCLA in 1999, Ayanbadejo bounced around the NFL and CFL before landing with the Miami Dolphins in 2003 and 2004. He was then traded to the Bears, where he was a two-time Pro Bowl selection as a special team player.
He signed with the Ravens during free agency in 2008, and he immediately earned a third Pro Bowl selection.
Ayanbadejo was released Wednesday, and he suggested to Newsday Thursday night that the decision was fueled, in part, because of his advocacy of same-sex marriage and gay rights.
He had a different take, however, with the Sun.
“The Ravens have been backing me, they knew my stance for years and have been facilitating me and organizing me with LGBT and set me up with Equality Maryland. They helped me,” Ayanbadejo told the Sun. “If they didn’t like what I was doing, they would have cut me a long time ago. I’m a special-teams player and you can find somebody to do what I did for less than half that value. They can find someone to do the same job.
“I was the most productive player on special teams and the only linebacker who played in every single game. I’m not saying I didn’t bring any value. What I was saying about my bark is louder than my bite is I was talking more that I was productive and it makes you expendable.”
Ayanbadejo was due to make $940,000 in 2013.