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Brendon Ayanbadejo on Same-Sex Marriage; Saying Goodbye to Ed Koch; Investigating the Superdome Blackout; Sandy Hook Students at Super Bowl; Gun Policy Push

Aired February 4, 2013 - 10:30   ET


BRENDON AYANBADEJO, BALTIMORE RAVENS LINEBACKER: And so we think we have it bad here. It's not bad here. But we can make a change in the United States that can affect the whole world.

DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: Brendon during Super Bowl week, San Francisco 49ers cornerback Chris Culliver made controversial remarks over not welcoming gay football players in the locker room. I want you to listen to this.

Do we have that? Apparently we don't have it, Brendon.

But what he said -- not the gay people -- I can't play with them. He said we don't like that sweet stuff. What do you make of his -- of his comments? He eventually apologized for it.

AYANBADEJO: Yes. Well I mean it's just so ironic because it's a game of football and it's a masculine game, and we play so hard against each other and for each other. And you ask why did the Ravens win the Super Bowl this year? It's because we loved each other more than the 49ers loved the man next to them.

So I love the man next to me. My teammates love me. The coaches loved us and we won this football game because of love. We didn't win because we are tougher or more macho or anything like that, we won because we love each other more and we're going to do anything for the man next to us.

And is that sweet I mean, I don't know. I think that's just -- that's just being a person and just having a task at hand. So I think more than anything that it's going to be a learning experience for him. Especially making the comments in San Francisco and I was raised in Santa Cruz, Californi,a just a little bit south of San Francisco. And the LGBT community is so near and dear to us because we really considered it the hub of LGBT rights in the whole of the United States.

So you have to know your demographic and really we have to start talking about this issue and we have to educate people. And there's groups like Athlete Ally. And myself, Chris Kluwe, Scott Fujita, we are all about inclusiveness in sports and treating everybody equally.

And you know once we start having this conversation and a lot of people don't have this conversation, they will -- athletes, really start to realize in the NFL and we can make such a big change that everybody is the same. We are all equal. It does not matter.

If you put your minds together, no matter what that person's background is or what their orientation is that we can make change and do positive things.

So it's unfortunate that he made the comments. And I know he's sorry for them. And I know he's going to make it right when he gets the opportunity to do so.

LEMON: You put yourself really in the bull's eye, in the middle of this, by talking about it. And there were people who were saying to the league commissioner, that "Hey, you need to shut your player up." Did you get any backlash from any higher up, anyone in your team or anyone in the NFL, because you were so outspoken about -- about gay rights?

AYANBADEJO: No, there wasn't necessarily any backlash. That some -- some things did happen that weren't necessarily good but so many more things happened that were great and monumental. I think the most importing thing is in the state of Maryland, Marylanders went out and voted for marriage equality. And that's really trend setting and trailblazing because we are the first state to do so.

And it was just a culmination of everything that's happened. It's the right time, the right place and I just -- I can't think of a better way for things to happen with Obama being re-elected and marriage equality being passed in Maryland.

And hopefully it will be passed federally and it won't be up to people's vote. So you really shouldn't -- it's not -- someone's rights are not your opinion. Someone's rights are granted to the Constitution.

So it's just the perfect storm. And I think -- I'm so proud just to be a Baltimore Raven and to be in the state of Maryland. We are a state that's really making a difference.

LEMON: You know it's kind of hard for us for many people to wrap their heads around it when they go Brendon Ayanbadejo he is -- in order for him to feel this way he must be gay. And Brendon you're not gay. You have a daughter, you have a girlfriend. You know we talked about it. You and I talked, Brendon is not gay.

And people don't understand that. When you hear people say that it's -- it's an abomination, that it's in a -- that it's a sin and that it's abnormal, what do you say to that?

AYANBADEJO: Well, I say that this Constitution gives you the power, it gives you the right to believe in anything you want though believe in. So whatever religion is out there, however many thousands of religions are out there, you have the power to believe in that because the Constitution grants you that.

Now don't use that same document, don't use those same rights to take away or disenfranchise others. It is ridiculous as me saying that no one can eat cheeseburgers, no one can eat pepperoni pizzas anymore because that's what it says in the Torah or in the Old Testament. So it's just equally as ridiculous saying that, oh, two people who love each other can't get married. Or, oh, it's a sin or Leviticus says this, Leviticus says that. But you have those rights to believe in what you believe in because you're an American and you have this Constitution. So don't take advantage of those rights and take away rights from others.

LEMON: Let's talk about the NFL and professional sports. Because -- there are people who say this is going to be the next big fight. This is the next big fight at least for equality when someone comes out, especially in the NBA, or the NFL and not a former player like many former players or a number of former players have come out. When someone comes out, do you know of players who are currently -- and not that you have to out them who are currently in the NFL, who are gay, who are closeted and who are afraid to come out?

AYANBADEJO: No, actually I don't know any. But I think that's why I work so valiantly for this issue myself and I mentioned Chris Kluwe and Scott Fujita and our work with Athlete Ally and Carner Barwin (ph) there is that when an athlete does comes out, that he has a supporting cast around him and organizations like the 49ers, organizations like the Baltimore Ravens have already set a precedence that they don't discriminate. All you need to do is be a great football player and be a great person. And the rest of your personal life is up to you.

So we're working hard for this. When our Jackie Robinson comes out, he's going to have a supporting cast around him. And we're going support him and we're going to treat him just like we treat everybody else, every other teammate, with love and fairness and kindness and compassion because we know it's really going to be a tough burden on that person.

LEMON: I'm watching social media here and people are talking about you now. Shelley Wright, who is the country western singer who came out before and she said, "I'm watching Brendon 310" -- that's your Twitter -- on CNN with Don Lemon. "What an amazing ambassador for equality. Thank you, Brendon."

And a lot of people are thanking you around the country and around the world. I agree, I appreciate it, sir. And I didn't screw up your name, as I have many times. Thank you, Brendon. I appreciate and it will talk to you soon. OK, safe trip back to Baltimore.

AYANBADEJO: Thanks, Don. With love we can accomplish anything. Thank you. Go Ravens.

LEMON: All right and yes congratulations, congratulations. Carol.

Carol, congratulations to them. I heard you are talking to -- to the scout leader this morning. I mean, this is -- this has been a huge issue. I've read one of the -- one of the major papers that called it big gay Super Bowl because of Brendon and because of what the 49ers player had said. This issue had never really been brought to the fore, especially it comes to the Super Bowl as it has this time.

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: But I think you're right. It won't truly be accepted within the world of sports until some NFL player comes out and proudly says, "I'm gay. Deal with it."

LEMON: Right ,exactly.

COSTELLO: Hey, I'm surprised you didn't ask Brendon if he's going to go on Ellen. Because he said he didn't want to go to Disney World, he wanted to go to the Ellen show.

LEMON: Ellen wore his -- Ellen show he wore his -- his jersey on the show the other day. He texted me and he goes, he said, "I heard you talking about me. But Ellen one-upped you. She wore my jersey, have my jersey on the show." So I'll find out. I'll let you know, I'll text him. All right.

COSTELLO: Thanks, Don.

LEMON: All right, thank you. Carol.

COSTELLO: The big game turning to a big platform for another key issue. And that would be gun control. Will it help President Obama in his push to end gun violence? Our political panel weighs in next.


COSTELLO: Forty minutes past the hour. Time to check our "Top Stories".

Investigators expect the number of people killed in a tour bus crash in southern California and San Bernardino County to rise. Right now they are reporting at least eight deaths. The bus overturned last night after rear ending a car and then crashing into a pickup truck on a narrow sloping road. Witnesses report seeing smoke coming from the back of the bus indicating a possible problem with the bus' brakes.

Hostage standoff in southeast Alabama now entering its seventh day with the gunman still holding a 5-year-old boy in an underground bunker. Police say he snatched the boy from a school bus last Tuesday after shooting and killing the driver. That driver is 66-year-old Charles Poland Jr., was remembered over the weekends in a memorial service.

And the next hour, a who's who list of political heavyweights will say goodbye to former New York Mayor Ed Koch at a Manhattan temple. Former President Bill Clinton is scheduled to speak. And New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg will deliver the eulogy. Koch died Friday of congestive heart failure. He was 88.

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell has addressed the Super Bowl blackout. He just did that at a news conference minutes ago. Here is part of what he said.


ROGER GOODELL, NFL COMMISSIONER: And the power outage was an unfortunate incident. But we're looking in to try to get the facts. There were no safety issues at any point in time. The dome personnel did an outstanding job. Exclude our fans and our personnel, our teams. I think everyone stayed calm. And worked through the issues, obviously, you all know it was about 34 minutes.

No indication at all that this was caused by the halftime show. Absolutely none. So I know that's been out there to say that Beyonce's halftime show had something to do with it. That's not the case from anything we have at this point.


COSTELLO: It would have been much different, though had the Baltimore Ravens lost and much bigger controversy. But officials in New Orleans still struggle to find out what exactly happened to cause the power to go out for those 34 crucial minutes. We'll have much more on the story throughout the day on CNN.

Gun control, a big platform, of course, for President Obama. Will it help in his push to end gun violence? You know, having a -- voice during the Super Bowl. Our political panel weighs in next.


COSTELLO: Super Bowl is one of the biggest events in sports. But last night the action on the field wasn't focused solely on touchdowns or gaining yards.




COSTELLO: Those are the children from the Sandy Hook Elementary School Choir. They joined superstar Jennifer Hudson for "America the Beautiful". And from the pregame to the commercials, the gun control debate was a noticeable part of the game.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The NRA once supported background checks.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We think it is reasonable to provide mandatory instant criminal background checks for every sale at every gun show. No loopholes anywhere for anyone.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: America can do this, for us. Please.


COSTELLO: That ad was sponsored by the group Mayors Against Illegal Guns. And today President Obama will resume his push. He's now heading to Minnesota where he will take part in a roundtable on the topic and one of the major topics will be background checks.

CNN contributors, L.Z. Granderson and Will Cain join me now to talk more about this. Welcome to you both.


COSTELLO: Good morning. So L.Z., I'll begin with you. This commercial that we just showed. It only showed in Washington -- in the Washington area, because I think that the mayors wanted lawmakers to see this spot and they somehow wanted it to sway them. Do you think that's a good strategy?

GRANDERSON: No. I don't. I think that the best strategy is what you saw at the beginning of the Super Bowl which were the survivors singing "America the Beautiful". I was there. I can tell you I was crying. I can tell you a lot of men around me were crying. The entire stadium gave those kids a standing ovation.

And I don't think anything resonates greater than a survivor standing up and saying that, you know, I think this is what we need. I can appreciate what the mayors did but I'm not sure if that was as effective as seeing those little angels sing yesterday.

COSTELLO: But we are not sure that the NFL was in any way, you know, taking a side in the gun control debate. Right, Will?

CAIN: No matter what side you find yourself on in that debate -- I got a little feedback here, Carol. I will try to fight through that. No matter what side of the debate you are on, you will be able to appreciate that moment. It was a beautiful moment. A tribute to the survivors, the families of Sandy Hook.

As far as I'm concerned it does not have any bearing on the gun control debate.

COSTELLO: Of course over the weekend, President Obama released a picture of him skeet shooting. Let's put up that picture now. and I don't know. Does this help in any way in the gun control debate we are having in this country?

L.Z., I will give that one to you.

GRANDERSON: You know, I have to tell you, I admire President Obama a great deal. I like a lot of things he has done in terms of policy. I like the fact he represents a huge demographic and social change.

But one of the things that really irritates me is when he answered to the crazy people. What I mean by that is, you know, releasing birth certificates, releasing images of him to prove that he is a real American or that he is who he says he is, that he is authentic. I really hate when he does that because I don't think it is effective.

This photo is another, you know, myth to me. All it does is open him up to more ridicule and to be mocked. I don't think you actually need to be shooting a gun to talk about common sense gun laws. And while I can appreciate the fact that he wanted to prove he had a certain level of cred in this discussion, his cred is the fact that he is commander in chief, not that he has to go out and show images of himself shooting a gun. COSTELLO: Well, it is interesting, Will, that whenever anyone talks about gun control, they always preface the conversation by saying, you know, I believe in the second amendment and I fired a gun. I have a gun, et cetera, et cetera. But that doesn't convince anyone, does it?

CAIN: Well, you know what; you're right. It is an irrelevant fact in the debate. And here, look Carol, you and I have had these conversations over the past several weeks numerous times. I have made the same objection every time. That is -- the details of which we focus on contributes so little to the debate.

I don't think the mayor's ad that you opened with the images of the children layered over the appeal for the policy helps analyzing whether or not the policy is worthwhile. Does the picture of the President holding and shooting a gun, every time someone says I appreciate the Second Amendment, I own guns, I hunt. Does that help? No.

Take the proposed policy, last night's ad was a background check. Something on its surface everyone agrees with. Universal back ground checks, keep guns out of the hands of criminals. We agree with that. But why don't we intellectually explore, yes, will it work? Will it achieve its stated goal? And those are the kind of debates we need to have. Deep into the issue of what you want to accomplish. Are you accomplishing it with what you are proposing?

COSTELLO: Will Cain, L.Z. Granderson, thanks so much.

CAIN: Thank you, Carol.

GRANDERSON: Thank you.

COSTELLO: We will be right back.


COSTELLO: 53 minutes past the hour, time to check our top stories.

The Boy Scouts could lift its the national ban on openly gay members. That decision could be made as early as today when the group's national board convenes in Texas. President Obama says lifting the ban would be the right thing to do.

The city of Baltimore getting ready to celebrate the Ravens' big Super Bowl win. It plans to host a victory parade tomorrow, rain or shine. The parade will start at city hall and end at the team's stadium. The Ravens, as you well know, beat the 49ers, 34-31.


COSTELLO: Our "Talk Back" question today: Who are the winners and losers at the Super Bowl?

This from Ted, "Loser, Alicia Keys. What amendment to the Constitution gives celebrities the right to make the National Anthem their own personal ballad? It was painful to watch and to listen." This from Cathy, "Total winners: Mayors for gun control."

This from Dan, "Please take politics out of our great national game. Come on, man. Can't we have a break? Real losers, politicians who lost sight of the meaning of the game."

This from Greg, "The winners were whoever ordered the switch thrown for the accidental blackout so they could have more commercial money."

This from Dave, "Ravens were the winners. American morality, like ancient Rome, was the loser."

Please keep the conversation going Thank you. As always, for the comments. And thanks for joining me today.

CNN NEWSROOM continues in just a minute with Ashleigh Banfield.