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Ex Ravens LB Ayanbadejo talks equality in South FL

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FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (AP)

Former Baltimore Ravens reserve linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo called on professional athletes Tuesday to stand up for marriage equality because he said it is ''the right thing to do.''

Ayanbadejo took his support for gay marriage to South Florida, where his career started with Miami in 2003 and where he has lived for the past decade.

''We are calling on everybody across all spectrums of sports,'' he told a news conference in Fort Lauderdale, where he was joined by the civil rights organization Equality Florida. One of the group's goals is a longshot effort to legalize same-sex marriage in the state.

''I think the star power, especially with athletes, allows us to hit a demographic. ... I think this allows us to have our voice reach a little bit deeper to people who wouldn't normally hear our message.''

The 36-year-old Ayanbadejo (eye-uhn-bah-DAY'-joe) said he had a ''bigger calling than football'' and this was it.

''I have a chance now to help so many more people than I did while in football.''

An open proponent of gay marriage, Ayanbadejo spoke in favor of it in November, before Maryland passed a law allowing it, and also prior to the Super Bowl. He also recently spoke at a rally on the steps of the Supreme Court.

He was cut from the Ravens earlier this month and initially suggested the roster move stemmed from his controversial stance. He has since backed off that position and said the team has supported him since he began talking about equality in 2009.

''They said go ahead and use your platform,'' he said. ''And not only did that make the Ravens look good and also we won the Super Bowl, but also it's a good example for other teams in the NFL as well.''

The chances of same-sex marriage being legalized in Florida are slim. In 2008, 62 percent of voters approved a state constitutional amendment banning it and civil unions. To overturn that amendment, the Republican-dominated Legislature would have to put a measure on the ballot or the group would have to collect valid signatures from more than 680,000 voters. The measure would then have to be approved by more than 60 percent of the voters.

Earlier this month, he told The Baltimore Sun that up to four NFL players may soon come out as gay. He told The Associated Press on Tuesday that a group of athletes were in touch with equality organizations and ''we are just trying to facilitate them so they can have a support group amongst each other.''

Ayanbadejo, who said he is not gay, said he is a product of biracial parents who would not have been able to marry in the '60s in several states.

''It's personal, but I equate it to equal rights, and a lot of people can't see it that way,'' he said of gay marriage.

The National Football League has not aligned itself with any lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender organizations.

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Follow Suzette Laboy on Twitter: (at)SuzetteLaboy

Tagged: Ravens, Brendon Ayanbadejo

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