Jason Collins' disclosure that he is gay makes this a landmark week for professional sports. Finally, an active male athlete from one of North America's major four sports has come out of the closet.
In Collins' excellent Sports Illustrated piece, he noted how impressed he was with straight players who had been so vocal in support of gay marriage. He singled out two NFL players -- Minnesota Vikings punter Chris Kluwe and free agent linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo -- who have been especially outspoken on the issue of gay athletes.
While Kluwe and Ayanbadejo have been praised profusely for their efforts by Collins and others, both players have indicated recently that their vocal campaigning may have hurt their status on their teams.
After he was released by the Baltimore Ravens this offseason, Ayanbadejo said he thought his activism played a role in the team's decision.
"I was a vocal guy and garnered a lot of attention," Ayanbadejo told Newsday a few weeks ago. "I brought a lot of issues with me to the Super Bowl and the issues came up at the Super Bowl. …My bark is louder than my bite. I make a lot of noise and garner a lot of attention for various things off the football field. When that starts happening, why do you have that player around?"
The Ravens vehemently denied that Ayanbadejo's persona beliefs were a factor in his release.
"We're surprised that he would indicate this. We have always been respectful of Brendon's opinions and his right to express those," Kevin Byrne, Ravens senior vice president for public and community relations, told the Baltimore Sun. "Our decision regarding his departure from the team has everything to do with football. Nothing else."
Ayanbadejo later distanced himself from his comments to Newsday and told the Baltimore Sun that he understood the team's decision.
While Kluwe remains on the Vikings' roster, his job security was called into question when the team drafted punter Jeff Locke last weekend. In a text message sent to ProFootballTalk, Kluwe said his activism may be a turn-off for the team's front office.
"It's a shame that in a league with players given multiple second chances after arrests, including felony arrests, that speaking out on human rights has a chance of getting you cut," Kluwe wrote in a text message.
Kluwe's causes have extended beyond marriage equality. During a game last year, Kluwe wore a homemade patch supporting punter Ray Guy's Hall of Fame candidacy.
After the game, Vikings special-teams coordinator Mike Priefer seemed irked with Kluwe's move.
"Those distractions are getting old for me, to be quite honest with you," Priefer said.
But when speaking with reporters during the draft, Vikings general manager Rick Spielman said he had no problem with Kluwe's outspoken nature.
"This was just another normal personnel move," Spielman said. "It had nothing to do with Chris Kluwe's off-field concerns. I have no issues if Chris Kluwe wants to express his opinion. That's his right. That's his freedom of speech. This is just a football decision to bring in a guy to come in to compete."
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