Ever since he won the Super Bowl, Brendon Ayanbadejo's soap box has gotten a lot taller.
Now he can reach more people and spread his most important message: Homophobia in pro sports needs to stop.
He is a straight man, who all on his own took up the fight for LGBT equality in sports.
Chuck Culpepper is a gay sportswriter who is a self-proclaimed "exotic creature" as an aforementioned "gay male sportswriter."
He was also lucky enough to be able to cover the Super Bowl and interview the players before the game.
While in the Ravens' locker room, he spotted a player that he didn't immediately recognize, but after learning who he was, had to go speak to him.
That player was Brendon Ayanbadejo.
"So I started with football questions, and he spoke cordially of the Ravens as "family," as "brothers" and as "playing harder for each other" because of that. He said togetherness mattered because football's 100-plus-year history had exhausted most of the game's strategic secrets. He spoke unexpectedly of the other employees of the franchise, of the team being "more than 53." And just then, one of the more-than-53 appeared at his locker, a media-relations rep informing him it was time to head for the bus.
As we walked out together, he told of hearing Tom Coughlin speak at the previous Super Bowl about love, a remarkable turn of American life I had missed while abroad. He told of applying Coughlin's concept to a note he placed in head coach John Harbaugh's suggestion box. And as he said this, we turned left from the locker room out into the cold tunnel, where it seemed just about time to part, and where I surprised myself.
"You don't know me," I said, and he grinned at that, "but you have done a lot for me," and his eyes told me he knew what I meant. "And I just want to tell you that I am so grateful. You are a good man."
Whew. There. I had spit it out. With reasonable concision, even. As we let go of our handshake, he said simply and unemotionally, "It's the right thing to do, plain and simple," whereupon I mustered a closing, "Thank you." Wary of bothering him any further, I turned around and practiced my penchant for fast walking, relieved that I had spoken, amazed that my unusual life could have intersected with such an unusual linebacker."
That's absolutely incredible.
Now if you'll excuse us, we need to go grab some tissues… we've got something in our eyes.
All we can say is what Chuck already said so perfectly: Thank you, Brendon, you're a good man.
[Image via AP Images.]