The Ravens officially announced the termination of Brendon Ayanbadejo’s contract on Thursday – a move that didn’t surprise many who follow the team. Ayanbadejo was an extremely well compensated special teams player and contributed very little on the defensive side of the ball.
During his 10 seasons in the NFL, Ayanbadejo was never a high-profile player – until he took a very public stance in support of same-sex marriage. With the macho persona of football players, Ayanbadejo’s stance was one many assumed wouldn’t be popular in the locker room.
Speaking with Tom Rock of Newsday about his release, Ayanbadejo hinted that his advocacy and strong public presence might have affected the Ravens’ willingness to allow him to finish his contract with the team, which would have expired after the 2014 season.
“I make a lot of noise and garner a lot of attention for various things off the football field,” said Ayanbadejo. “When that starts happening, why do you have that player around?”
The extremely image-conscious and public relations-friendly Ravens will probably not take kindly to their former employee’s remarks.
For Ayanbadejo to make such a statement, he must have felt some animosity inside the Ravens locker room. Ayanbadejo’s former teammate Matt Birk was very public with his stance against same-sex marriage, and even filmed a video for the Minnesota Catholic Conference. Even though they had opposing views, both players were cordial in their disagreements.
Ayanbadejo also added, “I don’t necessarily think that teams want that kind of attention.”
Regardless of whether Ayanbadejo’s comments were factual or not, this should most likely be chalked up to his disappointment over being released. The Ravens haven’t ever publicly declared their stance on the issue but both the franchise and head coach John Harbaugh have supported players’ rights to free speech under the First Amendment.
Ayanbadejo’s comments – true or not – may not been the best thing to say as he begins to search for a new team. Regardless of his public stances, he’ll be 37 years old by the time the regular season kicks off and will have to be paid the veteran minimum (likely for only special teams play).
As if the odds weren’t stacked against him enough, this may make it even more difficult for him to get a new job. Why would a team bring him in for a tryout, with the chance that he could turn around and question their motives if they decide not to offer him a contract?
Update: The Ravens issued the following response, per the Baltimore Sun:
“We’re surprised that he would indicate this. We have always been respectful of Brendon’s opinions and his right to express those,” said Kevin Byrne, the Ravens’ senior vice president for public and community relations. “Our decision regarding his departure from the team has everything to do with football. Nothing else.”
Update II: Ayanbadejo posted this comment to his Facebook, believing his was misunderstood. Also, Ayanbadejo continues to throw himself under the bus by saying a team could sign someone to do his job cheaper. I’m sure his agent isn’t too happy.