Policy & Law

Fourth and long. Delegate Burns needs to punt.

If you haven’t enjoyed this elsewhere already, here’s the background: Recently, Baltimore Raven linebacker Brandon Ayanbadejo angered State Del. Emmett C. Burns, Jr for publicly speaking in favor of Maryland’s legislation for marriage equality. Delegate Burns wrote to Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti: “I am requesting that you take the necessary action … to inhibit such expressions from your employee.”

Minnesota Vikings punter Chris Kluwe heard about this.  He penned the following:

Dear Emmett C. Burns Jr.,

I find it inconceivable that you are an elected official of Maryland’s state government. Your vitriolic hatred and bigotry make me ashamed and disgusted to think that you are in any way responsible for shaping policy at any level. The views you espouse neglect to consider several fundamental key points, which I will outline in great detail (you may want to hire an intern to help you with the longer words):

1. As I suspect you have not read the Constitution, I would like to remind you that the very first, the VERY FIRST Amendment in this founding document deals with the freedom of speech, particularly the abridgment of said freedom. By using your position as an elected official (when referring to your constituents so as to implicitly threaten the Ravens organization) to state that the Ravens should “inhibit such expressions from your employees,” more specifically Brendon Ayanbadejo, not only are you clearly violating the First Amendment, you also come across as a narcissistic fromunda stain. What on earth would possess you to be so mind-boggingly stupid? It baffles me that a man such as yourself, a man who relies on that same First Amendment to pursue your own religious studies without fear of persecution from the state, could somehow justify stifling another person’s right to speech. To call that hypocritical would be to do a disservice to the word. Mindfucking obscenely hypocritical starts to approach it a little bit.

2. “Many of your fans are opposed to such a view and feel it has no place in a sport that is strictly for pride, entertainment, and excitement.” Holy fucking shitballs. Did you seriously just say that, as someone who’s “deeply involved in government task forces on the legacy of slavery in Maryland”? Have you not heard of Kenny Washington? Jackie Robinson? As recently as 1962 the NFL still had segregation, which was only done away with by brave athletes and coaches daring to speak their mind and do the right thing, and you’re going to say that political views have “no place in a sport”? I can’t even begin to fathom the cognitive dissonance that must be coursing through your rapidly addled mind right now; the mental gymnastics your brain has to tortuously contort itself through to make such a preposterous statement are surely worthy of an Olympic gold medal (the Russian judge gives you a 10 for “beautiful oppressionism”).

3. This is more a personal quibble of mine, but why do you hate freedom? Why do you hate the fact that other people want a chance to live their lives and be happy, even though they may believe in something different than you, or act different than you? How does gay marriage, in any way shape or form, affect your life? If gay marriage becomes legal, are you worried that all of a sudden you’ll start thinking about penis? “Oh shit. Gay marriage just passed. Gotta get me some of that hot dong action!” Will all of your friends suddenly turn gay and refuse to come to your Sunday Ticket grill-outs? (Unlikely, since gay people enjoy watching football too.)

I can assure you that gay people getting married will have zero effect on your life. They won’t come into your house and steal your children. They won’t magically turn you into a lustful cockmonster. They won’t even overthrow the government in an orgy of hedonistic debauchery because all of a sudden they have the same legal rights as the other 90 percent of our population—rights like Social Security benefits, child care tax credits, Family and Medical Leave to take care of loved ones, and COBRA healthcare for spouses and children. You know what having these rights will make gays? Full-fledged American citizens just like everyone else, with the freedom to pursue happiness and all that entails. Do the civil-rights struggles of the past 200 years mean absolutely nothing to you?

In closing, I would like to say that I hope this letter, in some small way, causes you to reflect upon the magnitude of the colossal foot in mouth clusterfuck you so brazenly unleashed on a man whose only crime was speaking out for something he believed in. Best of luck in the next election; I’m fairly certain you might need it.

Chris Kluwe

P.S. I’ve also been vocal as hell about the issue of gay marriage so you can take your “I know of no other NFL player who has done what Mr. Ayanbadejo is doing” and shove it in your close-minded, totally lacking in empathy piehole and choke on it. Asshole.”

Three thoughts, two of them admittedly quite obvious to most sentient folks:

First, equal rights for gay and lesbian Americans is the civil rights battle of our time.  It is a right-and-wrong, where-did-you-stand-in-the-fight moment in precisely the same way that equal rights for people of color was the defining moral question for previous generations.  That there are many African-Americans who resent the comparison, who argue correctly that race is not a matter of choice, yet mistakenly believe that sexual identity can be mitigated, or, just as wrongly, believe that such a distinction even matters to any citizen’s right to equal treatment, is just tragic.  One would love to believe that human beings — especially those who know intimately the sting of intolerance — could more readily transform past pain into present empathy.  But the human heart is sometimes less expansive than poets like to claim, and we are a species too often required to learn the same hard and grievous lessons again and again. 

Second, that Delegate Burns occupies a seat in my state’s legislative body and has no fundamental grasp of democratic principle, and specifically, our shared right to speak freely and seek redress — this is an embarrassment to the General Assembly, to the Democratic Party, and to Maryland as a whole.  His letter to Mr. Ayanbadejo’s employer is just an astounding, McCarthyite abuse of his position; it deserves the formal censure of the House of Delegates.

Third, if the Baltimore Ravens will at any point trade for Mr. Kluwe, I promise to double-down on my season tickets and purchase a second pair of seats.  And if we have no practical need for a second punter, then perhaps there is an English or political science department at a Maryland university willing to immediately offer Mr. Kluwe a tenure-track position.  If this fellow is encouraged to continue his newfound  career as either an essayist or political scientist, I promise to contribute heartily to the endowment of that discerning institution of higher learning. Mr. Kluwe can do a lot more for society than kick a football.  

I’ll say no more, pausing now to look up the word “fromunda.”  Today is indeed a day that I get to learn something new.




  • In light of Emmett Burns’s tenure as a delegate for the Maryland State Government ending last January, I couldn’t help looking back on this controversy and how much of an impact it truly had. When Burns announced that he would not seek re-election in the summer of 2013 he claimed that this controversy did not influence his decision but given how strong the backlash was concerning his original letter to Ravens owner Steve Biscotti I find it hard to believe that Burns did not feel at least some pressure from the aftermath of what he had done. Burns’s letter was of course astonishing, though not only in it’s content, but also because Burns actually made the letter available to the media instead of merely sending it to Biscotti privately. At first he did not really seem able to distinguish his differing views on Brendan Ayanbadejo’s public stance from the simple fact that Ayanbadejo’s actions did not violate any NFL regulations. He also showed himself to have a rather narrow belief on the supposed masculinity that he attributed to the sport of football when he initially defended his letter. While he has every right to believe this about football, it still did not excuse the fact that he was still coming from a personal opinion when he tried to silence Ayanbadejo’s public stance which was of course an intolerable action. Despite Burns later recanting his initial request and ultimately receiving an admonishment from an ethics committee for his actions, I still cannot help wondering if he truly understood where he had been wrong in what he did. Although Mr. Simon expressed his admiration here for Burns walking back on his initial request elsewhere in the comments section here, I am very much aware that for many other people it was not enough. Some questioned why he had not realized just how far he was taking things sooner or even before he sent that letter to Steve Biscotti. His views on football not being the place to support same sex marriage are unlikely to change (ridiculous as they seem not just to me but others I know as well) but even as his time in the Maryland State Government has ended, the question of whether or not he truly understands the lack of ethics that underlay his attempted imposition on Ayanbadejo still lingers…

  • Can I just point out that both Brandon Ayanbadejo and Chris Kluwe are UCLA Bruins! Same school that produced Jackie Robinson. Across town they produced OJ Simpson and the Kardashian Klan.

  • The entire thing’s pretty absurd beyond the obvious reasons because sexual orientation isn’t necessarily a this or that. Kinsey had it right, that you can lean toward one side either partly or completely, or be somewhere more in the middle. And if homosexuality was a choice, what about other sexual inclinations? Do we choose to prefer blondes, or brunettes? Does someone choose to like tall women, or short women? Do people choose their fetishes… because there’s some strrraannngggeee stuff out there. I doubt Quentin Tarantino woke up one morning and said, “yeah I think I’m gonna like feet.” The debate also ignores asexuality, which is a very real thing, and wants to pretend we all have the same emotions and feelings.

    I would bet money that in 50-70 years when people look back at this era, the whole debate over whether homosexuality is a choice or not will be as laughable as whether the world is flat or round. I’m sorry, but if you feel that homosexuality is a) a choice, and b) somehow wrong, you’re on the losing side of this battle. History will not be on your side. This is probably the clearest and simplest ideological battle of our times, too, as far as right and wrong.

  • First of all, Mr. Kluwe — right on! Your response is a to the representative of my home state was needed and wonderful. However, in my initial readings of David’s response and your comment, I’m discomforted by the comfort each of you take in rightness and progress.

    “when our children look back at us in 50 years time, will they feel like way we do now about those that supported segregation,”

    Well, maybe. Our children may sit in sheets on their 2050 version of a covered horse and talk about the folly of our attempts to empower the obviously inferior.

    “History has already shown us which one eventually wins out.”

    It’s a comforting statement, but I can’t agree with where it goes. Our societies do not naturally tend toward utopian paradises. What history does is move toward the living, and the living are more comfortable and forgiving of those in history who are closer to themselves, so we feel better and better about what has happened in the world the closer we get to ourselves (the closer gazing at history becomes gazing at a mirror). Societies do retreat from values once held and from perfecting ideals once held. We cannot believe victory is inevitable because the world tends toward “rightness”. That is just a recipe for disaster.

    “First, equal rights for gay and lesbian Americans is the civil rights battle of our time. It is a right-and-wrong, where-did-you-stand-in-the-fight moment in precisely the same way that equal rights for people of color was the defining moral question for previous generations.”

    David’s thinking of the 1940s-1960s, but there is a chance — maybe an equal chance, or greater — that this could be true: “Equal rights for gay and lesbian Americans is the Reconstruction of our time.” Our nation could back away from this. The struggle we’ve made gains on in these last years could be rewritten as folly — in popular culture and history books. It is not inevitable that our children or future nation will see we are right. In 50 years or 200. We need to ensure that.

    • When progress relies on the common sense of the average soul, I have some greater confidence in the outcome. If it were up to our political leaders, theologians and lawmakers to assure first-class citizenship for gay and lesbian Americans, I agree that they might be leading from the back of the room for years to come.

      But as ordinary Americans are increasingly confronted by friends, relatives, coworkers and even heralded, beloved celebrities who are openly and unrepentantly homosexual, we are by and large making the right choices and opting for acceptance and shared humanity. In this debate, and in many others, I believe in the mob, so to speak. They exhibit more practical intelligence than the elites, authorities and institutions.

      When enough Americans were ashamed to participate in racial segregation, then segregation was doomed. When enough Americans resisted the Vietnam War, the end of that conflict became inevitable. When enough Americans refuse to treat gays and lesbians with less respect than anyone else, full citizenship for homosexuals is sure to follow. And for that matter, when enough Americans refuse to sit in groups of twelve and send a thirteenth to jail for a non-violent drug charge, it will be the beginning of the end for the drug war.

      We are, in the end, the leaders we need. Or at least, we are the message that our so-called leaders need to hear.

  • Just wanted to thank everyone (especially Mr. Simon) for their comments and for talking about the issue. My dad linked the site to me and I appreciate the discussions, both rational and irrational 🙂

    While I admit that my language was perhaps a little ‘colorful’ at times, I also posted a cleaned up version that goes into some explanation as to why I responded the way I did (I also blame the fact that I play a lot of online games and am active on message boards for most of them; those crucibles burn white hot and it forges a certain type of steel – one might consider it Damnasscuss). You can find that version here if you’re so inclined.

    Ultimately, my support of gay marriage boils down to one simple point – No one has been able to satisfactorily explain to me why we should oppress a minority group from seeking equal rights under the law. “Because it makes me feel icky” is not a logical argument, and when our children look back at us in 50 years time, will they feel like way we do now about those that supported segregation, or slavery, or prevented women from voting? It’s the same stupid cycle where the only thing that’s changed is the name. Are you for oppression, or are you for equality?

    History has already shown us which one eventually wins out.

    • Chris,

      Thank YOU for your intelligent and entertaining rebuttals this week. I laughed, I thought, I searched for the Vikings game on TV – well, that part failed (curse you, regional programming!)

      Someday, Burns and ilk will discover that time moves in only one direction – forward – and that they fell behind a long time ago.

  • Regarding the proposed ban on Chick-Fil-A’s, I’ve always felt we have a tendency to over-correct our wrongs. My Step-father is one of those Vietnam veterans with the possibly fictional, but probably representative, story about coming home from the war and being spat on by “a hippie in an airport.” Over the course of my life, I’ve met maybe ten or so other guys his age with similar tales. Apparently, the early Seventies were a very salivary era. However, in my lifetime-I’m in my early thirties- we have romanticized the idea of “supporting the troops” to the point where we can’t question the military’s slightest action. And, I would argue, this hyper vigilance, this preoccupation with “respect for our armed forces” is what led us to forego all questions of the legality, the utility and the sensibility with going to war in Iraq.

    We err and we overcorrect. We frontlash and we backlash. A few people have commented here, “Gays have the same rights as everyone else, excluding the right to marry. What’s the big deal?” As if the right to wed a person of your choosing were as trivial as the right to have your parking validated at a fancy restaurant. Nevertheless, people who stand in the way of this are clearly on the wrong side of history. In twenty years I simply can not foresee a scenario where this is even a debatable subject.

    Where I am more concerned is with our overreaching. Our knee jerk disregard for the first amendment and the rest of the Constitution. Why does delegate Burns feel he can send an official letter to the Ravens telling them to essentially, “put that dog on a leash?” Why do Menino and Emanuel think no one would notice a blatant-albeit wildly popular-violation of the civll rights of a business? It’s this kind of subservience that brought us the Patriot act and “Stop and Frisk.” This lap dog attitude to power is intertwined deeply into our American DNA. We brought it over from England, I suppose. The respect for a bully. The slaves who thanked the Master for publicly whipping the dissonant. The miners who lauded the coal boss who tolerated no guff from his workers. I hope I’m not taking the conversation in a different direction than the one you intended. It’s just that this aspect of the story interests me more than the more obvious one. Again, the right to marry whomever you chose is basic and self-evident (I extend this to plural marriage as well.) and Chris Kluwe can kick for my Bengals anytime.

  • “You are not a fan, I begin to sense this.” Ok, I laughed very hard. Has anyone noticed (and as I write this I am admitting that I am too lazy to run through all 48 comments where it may be quite obvious that others have noticed this.) that this is the absolute inverse of the Chick-Fil-A controversy that dominated our weekly outrage a month or so ago? An elected official(s) Menino, Emanuel and Alderman Proco attempted to use their power to silence the free speech of a geriatric old bigot and the world went apeshit. Now, obviously, if you are under the age of 83 and honestly care who complete strangers sleep with, you are not a thoughtful human being and you are, well, a bit of an asshole. But, where was the rage from the left about Menino and Emanuel trying to block the civil rights of Mr. Cathy?

    • You are exactly, precisely correct, in my opinion.

      If you are offended by Mr. Cathy’s publicly expressed views on gay rights, you are certainly entitled to avoid giving him your lunch money. You are in no way entitled to use the public levers of governance to impair his ability to run his business and make a living. I thought at the time that the Chick-Fil-A dustup was an embarrassing liberal overreach. To deny Mr. Cathy equal treatment with regard to zoning and development issues because of his beliefs is to treat him as a second-class citizen in the same way as the extant case involving the NFL player.

      Gary rights advocates embarrassed themselves there in the same way that Delegate Burns did here.

      That said, I was in a shopping mall with my wife the other day and we walked past a Chick-Fil-A in the food court, remarking to each that while we wanted government to do nothing to impede or restrict the company, neither were we likely to get in line for chicken. While I don’t object to anyone patronizing Mr. Cathy’s business, we both came to the conclusion that at this point, we personally wouldn’t be caught dead waiting in that line. What would it say to any gay or lesbian American to see us do so? I realized that to stand there and be seen by a gay friend carried a specific stigma of non-solidarity. That is the certain cost of Mr. Cathy’s public utterances, just as the patronage of gay-rights opponents is his certain benefit. His comments were polarizing, so he can now claim one end of the political spectrum and forgo the other. But government has nothing whatsoever to do with that.

    • The Chick-Fil-A debate was, in my opinion, one in which a lot of people from a lot of different walks of life really embarrassed themselves. The original sentiment by Mr. Cathy is of course offensive, but so was the way in which elected officials tried to pander to the voters by doing something that was patently discriminatory and overreaching, basically conforming to the worst stereotypes about liberalism. Then we had the social conservative crowd (Santorum, Palin, etc.) going out of their way to show their support for Chick-Fil-A, claiming that they were sticking up for free speech when in fact they were playing on fears and stereotypes to further an “us vs. them” mentality. Perhaps the most annoying (to me at least) were the folks going around saying “Chick-Fil-A practices discrimination”, when nothing of the sort was true. A person exercising his right to free speech (however ignorant his position may be) should not be equated with his restaurant practicing “discrimination”. I guarantee you that lots of gays work and eat at Chick-Fil-A every day.

      On another note, it saddens me that so many aspects of every day life are becoming so politicized. Americans have gotten to a point where mundane things like the car we drive, the restaurants we eat in, and the TV channels we get our news from must have some sort of political statement attached to them. I think it’s dangerous and divisive.

  • Mr. Simon, it is surprising that you would put up such nasty, hateful words. Delegate Burns criticized a Raven inappropriately using his status as a Ravens player to push a political message. The Ravens are an organization that receives tax payer money, and an individual who does not officially represent the organization should not be tossing around the organization’s name in such matters. Delegate Burns did the right thing.

    He was also a pioneer in the actual Civil Rights movement. Marriage is not a right. Liberty was, and that included the ability to get an education or to actually sit in places without fear of murder. Actual Constitutional rights were denied to blacks. However, most homosexuals, being white, enjoyed those rights during that time. They enjoyed the comforts of privilege. They did not get dragged through the streets. They were not lynched like that. There is no way to connect the two. And to post such incredibly vile and incivil attacks on Del. Burns is racism and an attack on actual Civil Rights. You are a disgusting person.

    • I disagree on all points.

      The Raven player did not “inappropriately” use his status as a Ravens player to push a political message. Playing professional football — or maintaining any occupation or status for that matter — does not mitigate against an American’s right to speak or seek a redress of grievance. Can you explain to me where in the First Amendment to the Constitution it abridges the right to free speech for those citizens who maintain notable, or celebrated status? Can you point to where it even remotely suggests that there are occupations or employments under which Americans must yield their right to express themselves fully?

      Delegate Burns engaged in the precise tactic by which anti-Communist witch hunts were conducted in some of this republic’s darkest times. When Senator McCarthy and his followers wanted to destroy those who disagreed with them politically, they undertook the same intimidating path as Delegate Burns — they called their victim’s employer and used pressure and threats against the victim’s continued employment to suppress political dissent, compel cooperation with ongoing persecution of other political opponents, or simply and vindictively, to deny that person his or her right to pursue their profession. If you can’t see the moral deprivation in that, you have much, much more to learn about what the term “civil rights” actually means. To his credit, Delegate Burns has since acknowledged his appalling overreach and has given up on trying to silence the player. You are behind his curve here, even with regard to defending this action.

      I am entirely aware of Delegate Burns and his contributions to the civil rights movement. I covered Baltimore as a newspaper reporter and encountered the delegate on other occasions and in other circumstances. But citing the egregious wrongs committed against African-Americans and seeking to contrast them against the abuses against other minorities does nothing to vindicate any oppression. I do not require mass lynchings or the murders of gay rights activists before I’m ready to speak against anyone — anyone — being treated as second-class citizens. If something is wrong, it is wrong. And showing me a greater wrong does little to convince me otherwise. It is an embarrassing argument for you to make.

      That said, the murders of gay and lesbian Americans — undertaken because they were gay and lesbian — are indeed a fact in American history. Homosexuals have been victimized by violence based on sexual identity in many, many instances. To deny this, you have to be willfully oblivious to the truth about gay life in America. Further, I find it telling that you went out of your way to make a racial distinction regarding homosexuals, by noting that most of them are white. It is my understanding that the incidence of homosexuality is fairly consistent with regard to race, and the percentage of African-Americans who are homosexual corresponds to other that of other cohorts. Of course, attitudes such as yours have resulted in greater stigmatization and isolation among homosexuals of color — and a greater opportunity, in the vacuum that comes with closeted sexuality, for continued homophobia and discrimination in the black community. In short, you are pretending that homosexuality is, somehow, white. It is, instead, human. In the civil rights movement, Delegate Burns and other champions of change demanded that fellow Americans acknowledge the fundamental humanity of all people. “I Am A Man” may have been one of the movement’s greatest street credos.

      Amazing that when others, different from you, attempt to assert the same on behalf of their humanity, you become selfish and grudging with the great moral lesson of the civil rights victory. That lesson was for all of us — not that black folk are human, but that all of us are, and if any of us really want to degrade the citizenship of another, we have to debase ourselves and the value of citizenship itself to do it. Wrapping yourself or Delegate Burns in the mantle of that great movement as a means of denying the full citizenship of any other American because of that person’s race, religion, gender or sexual orientation does not preserve the legacy of the civil rights fight. No, it diminishes it.

      I agree that Mr. Kluwe’s language was vile. But uncivil? Well, I confess that I am fairly immune to the powers of profanity in this day and age. For me, incivility is highlighted by an elected official attempting to silence an American citizen by threatening that individual’s career through his status with his employer. That is not only uncivil, it’s un-American. By contrast, comparing someone to a jock stain or lampooning homophobia as someone’s fear of becoming a “cockmonster” isn’t an actual threat to the standing of a Maryland legislator. We are all aware of the difference between comic hyperbole and a genuinely vicious act. At the end of the day, no one reading Mr. Kluwe’s tirade seriously thinks that Delegate Burns is actually jocksweat, or for that matter, a self-fearing cockmonster. But at the end of the day, if more people thought and acted as Delegate Burns did in this instance — as they once did at the behest of political demagogues in this country — then a Baltimore football player might actually be denied his right not only to free speech, but to earn a living at his profession as well.

      A lapse in verbal civility doesn’t concern me very much, I confess. After all, I work for HBO. An affront to someone’s actual rights under the law should concern us all.

      • Of course you disagree. You posted a hate filled, cuss filled rant by a person to push your own political agenda. You already showed that you care nothing but your own ego at this point.

        “Playing professional football — or any other occupation or status for that matter — does not mitigate against any Americans right to speak one’s”

        This misses the point entirely, or just shows you are obfuscating the truth. He used his team to promote a political agenda. You do not have that right. That is not free speech. You have no right to use an association you do not represent. This is the equivalent of you claiming that all bloggers agree with you and speaking for them without having any right to do that. It is obvious that you don’t care about what is ethical or not, even though you lash out over and over on the matter.

        The fact that you would try to claim “witch hunts” while posting up some of the most vile attacks on him show that you are the one acting that way. He wrote a polite letter, and you respond with vitriol. It is rather obvious that such hate is in your response and not his. There is only one reason for that, and the use of “civil rights” in the situation is clearly racist. You are probably laughing as you sit there, getting a kick out of attacking the black man in such a way. Real nice.

        • Again, I am really less about “polite’ than you are. I couldn’t give a fuck about polite.

          I am about substance.

          Delegate Burns wrote a polite letter seeking to silence another American who disagreed with him politically, and to do so by attempting to intimidate the man and his employer. Mr. Kluwe wrote an impolite letter calling Delegate Burns to task for that shameful and un-American action.

          I’ll go with the impolite, but nonetheless honorable essay. That one serves our most basic democratic values.

          As to the player using his team to promote his agenda, I see no evidence for that. His statements were his own and at no point did he assert that he was speaking on behalf of the Baltimore Ravens or professional football. To the extent he used his own celebrity to garner attention for his views, this is true. He is entitled to his own celebrity, and more than that, he cannot divorce himself from it. He is who is and he does what he does. He works for the Baltimore Ravens and he thinks X about Y and he wishes to say so. So be it. If those opinions matter to you because he plays linebacker for a sports franchise, then such is the case. If not, then not. I am a writer who makes some television. I work for HBO and I think X about Y and I wish to say so. This is my blog. On it, I write what I believe. If you are interested because of the television work, then such is the case. If not, then not.

          You are entirely, ridiculously wrong about any of this mitigating against our right to speak openly and freely: All of us are entitled to do so without obscuring our identities or affiliations.

          So, too, Delegate Burns is elected to represent a district in Maryland’s lower legislative house. From that position, he chooses to speak and act as he does. If you feel his opinions are relevant because of his position, or for that matter his civil rights history, then such is the case. If not, then not. But as one of us is not only an American citizen with the right to speak freely, but also a policymaker and elected representative with certain public powers, actual and implied, then Delegate Burns also carries an additional burden. He is responsible not merely for his opinions, but for his actions as a public servant. That he opposes gay rights legislation in Maryland is insufficient in my mind to justify anything more than counter-argument; he is entitled to his opinion and he is responsible, of course, for his own vote. That he sought to take this fight beyond the marketplace of ideas and impose himself upon an opponent’s employer — this earns a real degree of contempt from me. Not contempt for the man — indeed, I do admire his willingness to now reconsider his behavior — but contempt for his undemocratic actions.

          Lastly, your understanding of when someone’s opposition to you, your arguments — or, in this case, the actions of Delegate Burns — constitutes racism is worth a remark or two. Racism is a big word, and one that has real political and social import. If you bring it out to affront those people who are genuinely attempting to marginalize folks on the basis of creed, or tribe, or national origin, you are using it legitimately and you are maintaining its full and effective power. If you use it because someone has criticized someone of color — not because of their race, but because of their actions and statements — then you have done little other than to erode meaning from the word. The cost of this is that when the charge of racism is next invoked — perhaps legitimately and intelligently — it carries less power and credibility than such a charge ought. You might want to rethink going there in this instance, based on what I have said and written and, too, what I have not said or written. Your presumptions about what I find amusing and why, or who I get kick out of attacking and why, are unsupported by anything other than your own anger.

      • And it is obvious that you are a racist in most of your works. You do whatever you can to denigrate decent African Americans people. It is a vile behavior and one of the reasons why we have such problems in our society. The only time you “fight” for anything is to attack more.

        • You are not a fan. I begin to sense this.

          We must agree that nothing further is going to convince the other person of anything. Moreover, it’s now clear that I stand very little chance not only of making my arguments understood, but of assuring you that you are no longer contending with the author of this blog, his arguments and purposes, but rather with someone that you have yourself conjured. I will accord you, in this post and the one that follows, the last word.

          • Wow! That was quite an accusation! I have to admit you sure handled it better than I ever could have.

            I realize that you and others here have stated clearly why you feel this guy missed the point of what you were actually trying to say here, but I got to ask you: Just how often are you ever actually accused of being a “racist” on account of your works? I’d like to think it doesn’t directly happen very often to you. It would probably be disappointing to you if it did, don’t you think?

        • Clearly, you’ve never actually watched any of Mr. Simon’s works.

          Now if you’ll excuse me, I feel a Treme marathon approaching.

        • While I understand you disgust and frustration. I feel that you are missing the point and letting anger control your repsonse. The reason that there are these disconnects in our society is not because people get say what they believe whether they are a dock worker or a pro athelete. The problem that we all bear, now and in the past, is that we aren’t willing to take the time to discuss the differences we have and the patience to try to understand these differences. We are all humans, trying to make it in this world. That’s not to say that we have to agree politically or socially on all or any thing. Why can’t we try to talk and sometimes disagree and agree that is the best scenario for all. Pulling the race card seems so passe and in my opinion, degrading to the person that states it as such in this sense. Delegate Burns apologized for what he said and hopefully understands where he was wrong in what he said. I don’t think many poloticians think or know what they say. I don’t live in Maryland and never heard of him before this. He is allowed to think, as you are, anything he would like about gay people, but as an elected official does not have the right to tell others what they think. Did you just stumble on to this website? Do you understand that perhaps, not popular to say publicly or in certain circles, that Mr Simon has depicted perhaps some of the most real situations on television. Some of this is bleak and most of it very real but this is the dialougue we need. While profane language is certainly upsetting, the point is no one in the United States of America has the right to tell anyone what they can say or feel. In most of Mr Simon’s work (haven’t watched all of it I am sorry to say), he has enlightened my family, myself. This has raised a conversation, some disagreements and lots of understanding. I am sorry you feel like this about Mr Simon or anyone. I by no means need to stick up for David Simon as I see that he has already stated the obvious and he is a grown up. I don’t see hatred in his work but someone that see’s the trap that many inner city black people get caught in. The trap we all get caught in. I applaud him and hope this conversation keeps going, the only way to get to the root of hatred on all sides, is in conversation’s like this and keeping it going. David Simon, thank you and keep up the good work! SAN, you too,..we all need to talk this out and get the hatred out!

      • One thing you need to learn – we had the God given right not to be slaves. We ARE people yet were not treated like people. We could not walk around. We could not buy things. We could not go to school.

        That is not what homosexuals experienced. They blended in with white society. They got cushy jobs. They have a high median of living. People like you in the media cry foul over one homosexual kid being depressed at school yet ignore dozens of black boys dying in our streets. It is a lack of priorities.

        Gay marriage doesn’t stop illegitimacy! It doesn’t prevent single parent households. It does nothing to address the actual problems of our society. What it does do is show that marriage isn’t about raising your children but allowing well to do white people feel like they are loved by society.

        Marriage isn’t a right. It is a responsibility. If you had your way, it would be completely meaningless.

        • While Mr. Simon is more than capable of defending himself, I can’t help responding to some of these remarks.

          First of all, to say that David Simon ignores dozens of black boys dying in our streets is really absurd given that he devoted much of his career to chronicling that very issue (The Corner, The Wire, even Homicide (book and show) to an extent).

          I agree with your most basic premise, that if we are to look at degrees of injustice, it is a greater injustice to be denied a seat at a lunch counter, or a job, or a home than it is to be denied a marriage license. One could argue that a homosexual walking down the street in 2012 is able to hide his homosexuality if he wishes, where as a black man can’t hide the color of his skin at any point. If we’re only talking degrees of injustice, then I’d be willing to concede that narrow point. Your racial identity is with you every second of your life, whereas there are times where a person’s sexuality is unknown, and therefore irrelevant.

          That said, the rest of your claims are troublesome to me. First of all, you stereotype homosexuals as overwhelmingly white. Perhaps it’s the intolerance in the African-American community by folks such as yourself who prevent more gay individuals from being honest about who they are.

          Also, as to your point that gay marriage does nothing to prevent illegitimacy or prevent single parent households. Obviously it doesn’t, but it doesn’t exacerbate those problems either. There are a lot of cultural, economic, and societal reasons for the breakdown in the family structure. That’s an important debate, which I feel that neither liberals nor conservatives get entirely right. But I think you’d be hard pressed to find a single divorce or broken home (white, black, rich, poor, or whatever) that could be in any way attributed to gay marriage. Nobody commits adultery or abandons their kids because the two gay guys next door are able to marry each other. Going to the movies doesn’t prevent illegitimacy or single parent households either, that’s not a sufficient reason for me to be forbidden from doing it.

          I also concur with Mr. Simon’s warning against the use of the word “racism” in areas where it is not warranted. In addition to being bad argument, it’s an unfortunate way to shut down debate.

    • From a UK perspective, what hit me the most about this story is that top sports professionals feel able to speak out on any issue relating to homosexuality. The equivalent on this side of the pond, being e.g. a Premier League footballer, would be extremely unlikely to happen as that individual would be the subject of rumours about their own sexuality and most likely the object of homophobic taunts from opposition fans. Not only is this reaction in of itself to say the least disappointing it would also detract from any message of import that was attempting to be conveyed.

      Am I seeing a rose-tinted discussion on these pages or will the players concerned be the object of abuse and innuendo because they put their head above the parapet?

  • Hi David,
    Gotta say I love the blog. I noticed a few posts back you said you were recently in Naples. I was wondering if you’ve ever gotten a chance to read “Gomorrah”, a great look at corruption and organized crime in the Naples area by a one time philosophy student turned journalist name Roberto Saviano published in 2006. It touches on a lot of themes that The Wire and some of your writing and speaking have touched on. Roberto spent a lot of time hanging out on drug corners and I found it fascinating to see how everything is totally different than the world you described in The Corner (he was quite literally writing about corners on the other side of the world) but at the same time it’s completely the same. I’d highly recommend it.

  • Count me in on the ‘bring Chris Kluwe’ to Baltimore bandwagon, although I’d hire him as a stand-up comedian/humor writer rather than a punter. Koch is quite good, thanks, and now that I’ve read some of Kluwe’s prior contributions, well, he has a lot of talent he can put to good use off the field. And I may just have to find myself a Kluwe jersey. Still purple, right?

    Meanwhile, I find it very interesting that the two politicians at the forefront of the anti-same sex marriage contingent in Maryland, Rev. Burns and Del Don Dwyer, have both rendered themselves political liabilities through unforced errors. In less than a month, to boot. I won’t miss either of them.

  • I was both excited and jealous when I read Kluwe’s letter on Deadspin. His mixture of righteous indignation, substance, and masterful profanity is a real treat. It made me wish both that I had written it myself and that I had a pulpit as tall to shout from.

    But the more I think about it, I realize that the best thing about this is the context, and now I’m very thankful for Mr. Emmett Burns. It would be one thing if Kluwe simply goes off about gay marriage, but the fact that Burns ties this to another civil right, freedom of expression, and aims at an NFL player is perfect. Now there are–hundreds? thousands?–of football fans whose opening reaction is, “I don’t really care about that, or I may not agree about part of it, but DAMN was that funny!” And then maybe they do start to think a little more. It also gives sort of gives people permission to form an opinion, or admit they have one, on the issue itself.

    I’m from St. Louis originally, and while I’m depressed for my home state that Todd Akin may actually be re-elected in November, I’m happy he opened his mouth last month to put stupid front and center on the national stage. Perhaps those of you in Maryland can feel the same.

  • I’ve never understood why a piece of paper, from the government or churches of all places, needs to prove that two adults have decided to co-exist under one roof? And if you are gay as one of my gay friends once told me, “why in the world would I ever want to enter into a contractual obligation with someone if we can’t have children and I’d be exposed to losing 50% of what I have worked my entire life for, just for a piece of paper that says I like someone enough to live with them”. I guess the same can be said for a heterosexual marriage, but at the end of the day, gay marriage is inevitable because politicians will eventually cave. After that…. what are americans going to find as the next great “inequality” drummed up by the lobbyists in DC & media elite? Ha… I wish my grandfather who dodged bullets in Guadacanal for 4 years was still around. He would have the biggest chuckle about all of this.

    Only if Americans were enlightened & impassioned enough to figure out how they are being colossally ripped off by their government & the corporations that threw them overboard 30 years ago! Why not a blog post David, about how the Fed is going to proceed with QE3 (thin air money printing) and enslave us to debt even more. How 25% of the american polulation is about to be on food stamps and the poor will be even poorer after this next round of monetary genius by these economic fucktards. Nope, gay marriage is what we need to focus on and be fired up about. Here is my synopsis of the three people involved in this clown act-

    1. a dumb delegate from MD. that’s only requirement to fill his seat is attending church each week and having an IQ slightly over 80.

    2. A LB from the Ravens that is a nobody as football player but is very popular cause he “speaks his mind” and the media just loves him for that.

    3. A Punter… that’s right a fucking NFL punter whose only job is to kick the ball down the fucking field 5 times a game. All of the sudden the Ravens should trade 3 draft picks for this guy cause he is cool and smart and “enlightened” the way that liberals want everyone to be. Nobody should care what this says freaking guy says.

    to summarize…. who the fuck cares what any of these people think. Live your lfe the way you see fit and don’t let anyone try to convince you to be pro-this or pro-that.

    • Do you think it possible that you might add to the discussion without heedlessly and uselessly insulting the various players with rank ad hominem.
      You can savage someone’s actions legitimately without lazily resorting to simple characterization of people as individuals.

      An NFL linebacker can have worthy or unworthy opinions, as can a punter. As can a state legislator. As can an ex-police reporter who has a website, or someone who bothered to comment on that website. Your simplistic denigration of participants in the dialectic other than yourself is unwarranted and, frankly, smug.

      • David, I’m sorry but how do you not find the conversation a bit ridiculous? Here we have a 72 year old delegate who “represents”, what 10,000 people in Baltimore County? I don’t know him and have never followed any of his votes in the state house. Not that I need to because lets be honest, MD is an Oligarchy. But either way, he is basically a political nobody. He sends a letter to the Baltimore Ravens that we all should theoretically laugh at because of how absurd it is. Laugh so hard at how silly it is, that no one should even give this fella the time of day.

        But wait…. all of this is thrust into a national spotlight because it is a topic the media salivates over. Two millionaires whose opinion on the matter is no more relevant then anyone else’s. They make noise about it and all of the sudden, bang, these two guys are heroes for speaking their mind. Why? What is it about 2 professional athletes that make what they say so important? Maybe it has something to do w/ the stereotypes that going along w/ being a professional athlete. Anything to advance the cause and breakdown barriers and force people to think the way progressives in this country think… right? Last time I checked gay people weren’t being thrown into concentration camps. They aren’t segregated into their own schools or required to use other bathrooms. They have the same amount of rights as you and I (except marriage in some states). They also have special rights when it comes to violence and the workplace. Their rights if violated supercede my rights because of legislation. With it being 2012, I would say that gay people have it pretty good from a civil rights perspective.

        My point is, all the while we are being lulled to sleep by the corporate owned media with this non-story and the owners of this country pillage and plunder on a daily basis. Maybe you and I don’t read the same stuff and that is why I come across as “smug”. But it is happening and the same people you portrayed in The Wire are the same people who are going to have their lives deteriorate even more. Throw in 20% of the middle class for good measure and we’re going to seen an America none of us ever thought possible. It infuriates me becasue none of it needs to happen.

        Sorry if I come accross as smug, that is not my intention. You wrote the Wire and asked great questions no one had ever really asked. People paid attention that would never have concerned themselves with what went on in West Baltimore. The struggle for life was shown in just about every episode. I noticed, studied and started questioning everything. For me, it all lead back to economics and monetary policy. Where did those manufacturing jobs go… China, we all know that. But that is the simple answer. The hard part is diving deep and immersing yourself in it. I think I’ve done that to the best of my ability & come out on the other side w/ a different view on things.

        I certainly don’t mean to offend any gay people, they have a right to live their lives as they see fit and my opinion on how they do so is irrelevent. Just like Mr. Burns, Ayenbendejo & Kluwe.

        • Again, look up argumentum ad hominem.

          If you embrace that as a fallacy of logic, and if you accept that logic is an academic fundamental, then you need to reconsider your approach.

          Who people are, how much they make, what political philosophy they embrace, who they marry, etc. — these are not meaningful facts to the advancement or refutation of any argument. The argument is what matters. If you can’t make your points without characterizing the people you are disputing, relying instead only on quick and dirty labels of your opponents, then you are operating under a dialectic that is certain to yield mediocre results. I resist that on this site and if you want to continue here, so should you.

          Denigrating someone who happens to be a millionaire and plays professional sports is beneath any argument in which I am interested. I’m a millionaire. I make television, for Chrissake. When I have my say, I am interested in hearing from others with opposite views. But when they try to win the argument by calling me a Hollywood liberal, or a TV hack, or whatever, I know that they probably aren’t bringing an A-game argument. Neither, in this case, are you. And if you go back and look at my criticism of others on this site — from Romney for his tax stance, say, or the Baltimore State’s Attorney for his approach to murder investigations, you will note the absence of characterization or namecalling. I am criticizing actions and arguments — Romney for refusing to reveal his taxes and expressing satisfaction with his tax rate, or the State’s Attorney, for his actions and statements.

          Rethink your rhetorical approach, or please, peddle it elsewhere.

          Having said that, I will also readily concede that Mr. Kluwe’s denigration of Mr. Burns’ in his letter embraced ad homimen. Decidedly. Normally I should oppose such, albeit I do think Mr. Kluwe was purposeful in his use of comic overstatement and carefully linked his name-calling to the delegate’s specific actions, which were entirely abhorrent. Be that as it may, Mr. Kluwe indulged himself. In his case, I credit him with being hilarious and with making clear — by hyperbolically comparing the legislator to jock sweat rather than denigrating him because he is merely a state representative or whatever — that he is not seriously attacking the actual standing of Burns. In short, we all get the joke. And with me, funny is sometimes an argument unto itself, I confess. And that shit was funny.

          As to the content that you offer beneath the unnecessary denigrations of others and their standing in our society, I can only repeat that gay and lesbian rights are an issue that has manifested itself as a moral litmus for our time. I am for all citizens having the right to live and love without the state creating or enforcing any distinctions among us. Further, I am entirely capable of addressing myself to this opinion while at the same time remaining attentive to other political and societal issues. No one is being “lulled to sleep” by anything here. We are addressing an issue unto itself. Additionally, the fact that gay folks are not being “thrown into concentration camps” is not an intelligent argument for ignoring matters in which their civil rights are second to that of other Americans. I think we must all agree it is a good thing that the threshold for redressing inequity among human beings isn’t simply the transport of some of us to a concentration camp. Such a standard makes for far too much human misery and belated reform.

          • Fair enough, you’re postion will most likely be different then mine 9 out of 10 times and I fully understand how cynical I can come across. Call it pessism about our America. But today, besides the issue of marriage, how exactly are gay people living in a society in “which their civil rights are second to that of other Americans”. I’m not really seeing that at all? maybe 30 years ago, but in 2012 I see a country in which they have one of the most powerful lobbies in Washington. Special legislation that if harmed punishes the assaliant with harsher charges & longer sentences. What else are they not being afforded by our society that they should have equal rights to?

            • All Americans have the same rights with regard to protection against those who would assail us physically because of our membership in a specific social cohort. If someone attacks you because you are black or Hispanic or Jewish or Muslim — because of group identification — it is a federal violation of your civil rights. To the extent gay and lesbian Americans have acquired certain similar protections — this doesn’t mean that they are being treated in any especial way, as you claim. It means exactly the opposite. In such instances, they are receiving the same civil rights protections as other minority groups. Good for them. Good for us.

              I agree that it is up to religious denominations to decide as communal issues of theology and morality on the matter of gay and lesbian marriage. Personally, I would not want to affiliate with any religious denomination that denied any congregant the rite of marriage based on sexual orientation, but I concede that this is just me. Church and state should be strictly separated, and too often are not in our society. But as many of us are decidedly not religious or unaffiliated with an organized religion, and as the state itself maintains the ability to join citizens in wedlock — and then to offer myriad distinctions, benefits and opportunities under the law to married couples that are not available to unmarried uncouples — I want an America in which there is no second-class status for any two people who love each other enough to take vows.

              That doesn’t seem complicated at all.

              • Bill Maher actually made a good point on this the other night during Mr. Simon’s appearance. There are some hot-button social issues like abortion where there are legitimate arguments on both sides even if you take the religious aspect out of it. And then there are issues like gay rights/same sex marriage where there’s really no justification other than “It’s in the Bible”.

                • Agree.

                  Abortion is far more fraught and nuanced. While I am pro-choice, I can see legitimacy in an anti-abortion stance. I certainly do not think abortion to be a desired outcome for a human pregnancy and if others genuinely believe that life begins at conception, then I accept that their view of abortion as morally untenable has, for them, undeniable substance.

                  From there, I move to the practical applications of a government prohibition against abortion and I find myself in a world of backalley abortions and endangered women, not to mention the inequality of poor women being the greater victims of unsanitary abortion or forced to give birth against their wishes, while more affluent Americans fly to other, more permissive jurisdictions to obtain the procedure. In short, when contemplating what the world would look like if Roe v. Wade were overturned, I find myself in the same mindset as I do when viewing the drug war. The societal prohibition is entirely untenable — and proved to be so in America’s recent history — regardless of anyone’s moral stance.

                  But Mr. Maher’s point is certain and convincing. There are credible reasons to oppose abortion as a matter of personal moral conviction. They cannot be argued away. But neither can anyone cite a practical way to argue all others to the same moral conviction or to effectively use the laws of the state to enforce that conviction — not without creating a furtive and dangerous world, and a world in which abortion would still exist. The decision needs to remain a personal one, involving an individual, her body, her conscience and her life.

                  • I think that’s an excellent point, practicality. The alternative is a world of slighty fewer, much more dangerous abortions; and likely many more unwanted children.

                    Contrast that with the gay marriage debate, in which literally nothing bad can possibly come out of allowing 2 people of the same sex to marry each other. In fact, the two most tangible negative results from sexual promiscuity (unwanted children and STD’s) are less likely to occur in a monogamous homosexual relationship than anywhere else. Which brings me back to Mr. Maher’s point: You really can’t justify opposition without using religion.

            • But today, besides the issue of marriage, how exactly are gay people living in a society in “which their civil rights are second to that of other Americans”. I’m not really seeing that at all?

              16 states & DC have mployment non-discrimination law covers sexual orientation and gender identity

              5 states have employment non-discrimination law covers only sexual orientation, but federal law prohibits discrimination against transgender and gender non-conforming people

              The other 25 states? NOTHING to protect someone from legally being fired for their sexual orientation or gender identity or gender expression.

              That’s just employment. Take a look at this map, at the state stats for each area, then say what you just said above, in public, with a “straight” face.

              I too, understand “triaging” some problems over others in terms of the over all human rights perspective and the stability of the nation’s economy.

              Would I rather be a middle aged gay lady or a black teenager in blighted Detroit? Obviously I am luckier of the two.

              Did that occur to me when I had a spouse in the hospital with a life-threatening illness? Not really, no. I didn’t feel so lucky.

              I’ve had friends who have lost parental rights to children they raised from birth.

              I’ve known someone whose spouse died suddenly, after a 45 year relationship, who was locked out of their apartment, lost access to estate rights in court, left destitute virtually overnight.

              And I won’t even start on the obstacles still faced by far too many GLBT kids.

              I suggest that if you lived as a second-class citizen, in the truest legal sense of the world, you might have a different insight.

            • Sorry, I left the link out of my response to Jason, above.

              Also, the italic code I used to set off his quote didn’t work. The first paragraph of my response are Jason’s words.

      • Chris Kluwe is no stranger to a punter’s belittlement on the team totem pole. He once tweeted about the player’s strike, calling various high profile players “#douchebags” (http://twitter.com/chriswarcraft/status/93372491627642880).

        Nate Jackson went to Deadspin to respond:

        Chris Kluwe made his Deadspin debut in his response, and just fucking eviscerates Jackson:

    • What’s your point? Yes, our country’s fiscal situation is growing increasingly dire. Yes, that’s probably something we should all be more concerned with in the short term than almost any other issue. But that doesn’t mean no other issue is an appropriate topic for discussion.

  • Percentage wise, there seems to be a greater hostility towards homosexuals in the African American community than in the general public at large. I’ve often wondered why that is. Religious conviction? Skewed beliefs on masculinity? Resentment at the comparison of the plight of the two groups?

    It’s an interesting question.

  • Kudos to Brandon Ayanbadejo and Chris Kluwe, both for speaking out on a public issue and for doing so with character and style.

    And kudos to David Simon for his appearance on Real Time With Bill Maher. David, I’ve got to ask, and you needn’t answer in this forum: Did you not have the urge to turn to Christine O’Donnell and quietly ask her, “You don’t really know what the hell you’re talking about, do you? The basic high school civics, the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, the operation of a representative democracy – all of these things are completely foreign to you, aren’t they?”

    Personally, I would have just asked O’Donnell to name her Congressman, or the number of U.S. Senators from each state, or the three branches of the federal government, or who we fought in the Revolutionary War. Odds are, O’Donnell would’ve whiffed on at least two of those questions.

  • I don’t really watch football after years of Seahawk mediocrity beating any interest in it out of me. However I am of a mind to buy this kid’s jersey and wear it proudly.

    David, please PLEASE give us a post about your Real Time appearance. Specifically at what point in the overtime discussion with Christine O’Donnell did you feel yourself beginning to rise out of your own body and float over the table? Holy shit! That was EPIC!

  • Simon said: “One would love to believe that human beings — especially those who know intimately the sting of intolerance — could more readily transform past pain into present empathy.”

    Seems to me I’ve seen this happening recently, and things appear to be changing at a pretty good clip. I think the cause could be goosed along even quicker if the word “prejudice” would be used more in connection with gay rights.

    Good piece on generalizations:

    BTW, David, loved how O’Donnell left you agape on Maher’s internet aftershow. A blogger memorialized your reaction in screenshots: http://jrarcieri.tumblr.com/post/31130086400/david-simon-reacting-to-christine-odonnell-during

  • You know, I never thought there’d be a day where my frequenting of both this site & Deadspin would collide.

  • Aside from the lapse of judgement of being a ravens fan (Go Steelers), spot on post. I am curious if Mr. Burns (excellent) would feel the same disdain for the expression of deeply held personal beliefs if Tim tebow were a member of the ravens. It would be safe to assume there are at least a few ravens fans who do not hold mr tebow’s faith and may be offended by his public professions.

  • Delegate Burns can add Scott Fujita to the list of NFL players he doesn’t know about because Fujita spoke out for gay marriage rights back when he was with the Saints–that glorious year.

    • I’ll add that when I was growing up in Washington I was — in the glory days before Mr. Snyder and the egregious move to the Laurel stadium — a devoted fan of the Washington Redskins. In earliest memory, my favorite player, barring Sonny Jurgensen of course, was the veteran end Jerry Smith, who was a regular in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Smith, it turned out, was gay and in that era, closeted. He died of AIDS in the early years of the epidemic, a startling moment that cured me of at least some of the flippant commentary that a callow twenty-something heterosexual might otherwise emit.

      I remember that even in the mid-eighties, the postmortem revelation of Jerry Smith’s sexuality was met by a strange silence, followed by a lot of no-fucking-ways by diehard Skins fans. At that point, everything was still a bit contained within the cocoon of amassed stereotype. Turns out these people weren’t merely our cousins and coworkers and friends that we didn’t know as well as we thought. Some of them were even our heroes.

      In some social and cultural ways, I think, the country is maturing remarkably.

      I did not think I would live long enough to see an African-American president. Or the state of Iowa assert for same-sex marriage in the middle of the American heartland. Yes, the cost is a fringe idiocy desperate to deny Obama his birth certificate. And too many of our politicians will, inevitably, lead from the rear on gay rights issues for years to come. And surely there are going to be more ugly rearguard actions like those of Mr. Burns. But overall we are growing more honest with each other, and certain victories are, I think, inevitable.

  • P.S.

    Can a Maryland employer tell an employee what he can or cannot say while off-duty? There is an interesting Baltimore precedent on this First Amendment question in the 1985 case of Berger vs. Battaglia:


    The bar at which Bobby Berger used to perform his Al Jolson act in black face is just a few doors down from my house here in Highlandtown. Since I don’t have a television, this is where I go to watch all the Ravens games.

  • “If this fellow is encouraged continue his career as either an essayist or political scientist, I promise to contribute heartily to the endowment of that discerning institution of higher learning.”

    Sending out emails…


  • I’m curious how Delegate Burns would have reacted if a white politician had written to an owner asking that a player be forbidden from speaking out on issues of importance to the African American community.

    I’m strongly in favor of gay marriage, but even those who are opposed to it should be troubled by this type of sentiment. Well meaning people can have honest disagreements, they should never ask that a person’s views be silenced, by government or employer. It’s become a cliche, but I feel that the whole “First they came for the Jews…” idea is worth repearing here.

  • As I am aware, fromunda derives from the expression… from under these nuts. surely you have heard or perhaps experienced your own fromunda chees?

    Chris Kluwe for Senate!

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