Last night ESPN ran comments by two Baltimore Ravens players – traditional marriage advocate Matt Birk, and same-sex marriage advocate Brendon Ayanbadejo. The difference is that they quoted Birk on how great Ray Lewis is, and they featured Ayanbadejo for having the courage to campaign for President Obama’s new position of legalized same-sex marriages.
With public opinions polls moving steadily toward support of legalized same-sex marriages, President Obama changed his position for the 2012 campaign. Traditionally both African-American and Latino voters have supported traditional laws defining marriage as between one man and one woman. Birk may be the only Harvard graduate that may make it to the NFL Hall of Fame while actively fighting for traditional marriage, so it seemed he would have been an obvious counterbalance to the story.
Instead, the one-sided approach in the ESPN piece run on Martin Luther King Day re-enforced the liberal narrative that same-sex marriage is simply the latest in the history of Civil Rights battles, implicitly on par with Civil Rights leaders who faced physical attacks and even death. The second was to praise Ayanbadejo for having the courage to take the position.
While certainly one could argue that in decades past supporting same-sex marriage was the courageous position, that narrative flies in the face of the current climate in which it is advocates of traditional marriage who are attacked for “gay-bashing” or at least not being open-minded by clinging to their religious faith, while advocates of same-sex marriage are more likely to be praised for their open-mindedness as they climb on the bandwagon.
The Culture and Media Institute pointed out that Tim Tebow and other athletes espousing Christian views such as support of traditional marriage mare more likely to face criticism:
“Christian athletes have experienced similar media disapproval. Salon’s Mary Elizabeth Williams slammed Olympic gold medalist gymnast Gabby Douglas for being ‘so, so, so into Jesus.’ New York Times writer Jere Longman slammed Olympic hurdler Lolo Jones as a fraud (and a Tebow fan) even before she competed: ‘Jones has decided she will be whatever anyone wants her to be – vixen, virgin, victim’ and mocked her faith: ‘She has proclaimed herself to be a 30-year-old virgin and a Christian. And oh, by the way, a big fan of Tim Tebow.’ Other Christian athletes have faced intense media criticism for their opposition to gay marriage. Soros-funded outlet Think Progress falsely accused Catholic boxer Manny Pacquiao of advocating the death of homosexuals. ESPN went on a crusade against Nebraska college football coach Ron Brown for his faith-based opposition to a ‘gay and transgender anti-discrimination law.’ One ESPN.com writer even called for Brown’s firing: ‘if he continues to confuse faith with a person’s fundamental right not to be discriminated against.'”
Are the many African-American pastors who once fought to break down racist laws and now preach on the importance of traditional marriage as the fundamental building block of society showing less courage than someone who campaigns to legalize same-sex marriage?
If ESPN wanted to do a piece simply praising athletes who take the time to be politically active, a balanced piece would have been to interview Ayanbadejo as they did, and then interview Birk about why he took the time to write in the Baltimore Sun in support of traditional marriage, or produce a film for the Minnesota Catholic Conference along the same lines.
It appears Birk could have been interviewed on the topic without any negative feelings. In the past, Ayanbadejo indicated to TMZ that he and Birk get along fine, but he expressed confidence that Birk’s children would disagree with Birk in years ahead as society moves toward support for same-sex marriage. “On the field, we’re on the same accord … When we come to work, we’re on the same page. One goal and that’s to win a championship. I think just from where we’re heading, his kids will grow up to have a different opinion from him, I’ll just leave it at that.”
As a 6-time Pro Bowl selection and this year’s Walter Payton Man of the Year – the top honor in the NFL for community service – the Harvard educated economics graduate could have provided a nice balanced story for ESPN.
It could have been an education exchange of ideas, as indicated when Birk was once asked why he did not like President Obama’s criticism on why the NFL owners and players had not solved their Labor Dispute when they had $9 billion in overall revenue. As the Baltimore Sun reported, Birk said,
“I mean, the U.S. government brings in a couple trillion [dollars], don’t you think they’d know how to balance the budget?”
Every sports fan loves how accessible ESPN has made sports, but with a growing share of overall TV viewership moving to sports, they could also be another powerful force backing President Obama’s agenda.