September 10, 2012
Maryland politician Emmett C. Burns Jr. has taken a ton of criticism after he said the Baltimore Ravens should punish linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo for speaking out for marriage equality. Burns, a Maryland House delegate opposed to a marriage bill awaiting voter OK this fall, has now changed his stance. “Upon reflection, he has his First Amendment rights,” Del. Emmett C. Burns Jr., a Baltimore County Democrat, told the Baltimore Sun in a telephone interview. “And I have my First Amendment rights. … Each of us has the right to speak our opinions. The football player and I have a right to speak our minds.” Technically, Burns (and those who ripped the politician) are wrong when they say this is a First Amendment issue. That deals only with the government restricting speech. The Ravens, being a private business, could have theoretically punished Ayanbadejo for speaking out and it would not have violated his constitutional rights. The Ravens ignored Burns and offered a full-throated defense of their player. Ayanbadejo told the Sun that team president Dick Cass was among those offering their support.