Lawmaker tries to shut up linebacker, cont’d

I’ve got a post at Maryland for All Families following up on the free-speech controversy that flared up when Del. Emmett Burns, a Democratic lawmaker in Annapolis, wrote to the owner of the Baltimore Ravens demanding he silence linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo, a vocal advocate of same-sex marriage (earlier). Discussion elsewhere: Rob Tisinai/Box Turtle Bulletin, Amy Alkon, Howard Wasserman/Prawfs, (team’s front office supports Ayanbadejo), David Frum, and a First Amendment analysis from Hans Bader.

Update: Amid widespread public support for Ayanbadejo, Del. Burns has now backed off his attempt to muzzle the linebacker [Baltimore Sun] Did any prominent critics of same-sex marriage speak up in favor of the Ravens linebacker’s free speech? If not, they missed an opportunity to underline the principled nature of their oft-voiced concern that those on the “wrong” side of the marriage issue will face official retaliation.


  • Wonder if we’d get the same hysterical coverage if a lawmaker wrote and asked that a player who supported traditional marriage be shut up? I suspect that the focus, instead, would be on the player’s “antiquated and homophobic” views.

  • We can venture a pretty good guess what the answer to that question is, because just a few weeks ago two elected officials did try to shut up Mr. Dan Cathy of Chick-Fil-A, whose views are the opposite of Mr. Ayanbadejo’s. What kind of coverage did we get? A national news story that went on for nearly a week; dozens of talk show hosts denouncing the threat to liberty; a “Chick-Fil-A Appreciation Day” promoted by Gov. Huckabee and others, and widely talked up in conservative outlets; and much more, until the officials backed down.

    Maybe Calvin A found that level of coverage “hysterical.” I didn’t, because the threat to liberty from that kind of official intimidation should concern us a lot. That’s why I devoted numerous posts here and elsewhere to defending Mr. Cathy’s rights, and am equally glad to defend Mr. Ayanbadejo’s rights.

  • […] letter is accompanied by a peremptory demand for an “immediate response.” And update: following an outcry in which the public overwhelmingly took the player’s side, Del. Burns has backed down. […]

  • Don’t you know? Only owners of Chicken Restaurants have protected free speech rights! Not linebackers.

  • I am disappointed in Del. Burns. We should encourage football players of all positions to speak articulately.

  • Tar, feathers…. (w/ a nod & a h/t to the Professor)

  • …and not to end our sentences with adverbs, D.

  • Just curious–HAS there been any commentary on this from conservative bloggers/pundits? the ones who were up in arms over Chik-Fil-A?

  • Cathy>Good question. Thus far, I’ve seen 1) a few Twitter and Facebook comments in the right direction from conservatives who aren’t well known; 2) extensive coverage from libertarian-leaning writers such as Eugene Volokh. But it’s hard to observe a negative. Possibly people like Mike Huckabee or William Bennett have spoken up on radio shows and I just haven’t heard about it.