In an astonishing assault on freedom of speech, Democratic state legislator Emmett Burns wrote to a man’s employer and asked him to shut the man up and shut the man down for advocating marriage equality.
Really. Burns wrote to Steve Bisciotti, owner of the Baltimore Ravens football team:
I find it inconceivable that one of your players, Mr. Brendon Ayanbadejo would publicly endorse Same-Sex marriage, specifically as a Raven Football player. Many of my constituents and your football supporters are appalled and aghast that a member of the Ravens Football Team would step into this controversial divide and try to sway public opinion one way or the other. 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.I believe Mr. Ayanbadejo should concentrate on football and steer clear of dividing the fan base.
I am requesting that you take the necessary action, as a National Football League Owner, to inhibit such expressions from your employees and that he be ordered to cease and desist such injurious actions. I know of no other NFL player who has done what Mr. Ayanbadejo is doing.
Please give me your immediate response.
The second paragraph stuns me. Somehow, though, the last sentence’s commanding tone makes the whole thing even more chilling. Just to recap:
This is a state legislator…writing on official Maryland House of Delegates letterhead..to a man’s boss…asking him to shut down his employee’s free speech.
It would be bad enough if Burns had applied pressure directly to Ayanbadejo. But going through his boss? Can you imagine if state legislators starting calling your employer — or worse, writing them on official letterhead — demanding that you stop exercising your First Amendment rights? That’s abuse on top of abuse.
This is at least as bad as when a Chicago alderman tried to block a Chik-fil-a store because he didn’t like the owner’s opposition to same-sex marriage. (I was away at the time, without Internet access, so let me state for the record: the alderman was an ass). To me, though, this seems worse, because contra Romney and the current Supreme Court, a corporation is not a person, and the power gap between an city alderman and multibillion-dollar corporation is not as frightening as the one between a state legislator and a private citizen.
Should Burns should resign over this? At the very least, he should sit barefoot on Ayanbadejo’s doorstep for three days, wearing a hairshirt, forgoing food and shelter, until Ayanbadejo accepts his apology. Burns is a public servant — we use that language for a reason — and his first duty to protect our rights. He’s abused his power, demonstrated his incompetence, and violated his oath of office.
Also, like so many of our opponents, he spouts nonsense even though Google is just a keyboard away. “I know of no other NFL player who has done what Mr. Ayanbadejo is doing.” Really? Here are a few players I’d like him to meet.
- Cleveland Browns linebacker Scott Fujita
- Houston Texans linebacker Connor Barwin
- Minnesota Vikings punter Chris Kluwe
- New England Patriots safety Bret Lockett
- New York Jets cornerback Antonio Cromartie
Emmett Burns’ mix of ignorance and arrogance is all too common among our opponents. No surprise, I though: each one breeds the other in a falling spiral of self-righteous egomania. I suppose I can take comfort in one thing. The National Organization for Marriage, a group that trumpets its principled support for liberty and opposition to government overreach, will be quick and fierce in its denunciation of this legislator.