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Lawmaker Admits Fumble, NFL Players Do Have Free Speech

Tom Dahlin/Getty Images(BALTIMORE) -- After a testy exchange of scathing letters, Maryland state Delegate Emmett C. Burns has changed his mind and conceded that professional football players have First Amendment rights to freedom of speech.

Last week Burns wrote to Baltimore Ravens owner Steven Biscoitti, saying he found it “inconceivable” that Ravens linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo was speaking out in support of same-sex marriage. The state delegate, who represents part of Baltimore, demanded that Biscoitti “inhibit such expressions from your employee and that he be ordered to cease and desist from such injurious actions.”

But after Minnesota Vikings punter Chris Kluwe printed a biting, insult-laced open letter berating Burns for trying to strip Ayanbadejo of his First Amendment rights to freedom of speech, Burns backtracked on Sunday.

“Upon reflection, he has his First Amendment rights,” Burns told the Baltimore Sun in a telephone interview. “And I have my First Amendment rights. … Each of us has the right to speak our opinions. The football player and I have a right to speak our minds.”

Burns told the Sun that despite the controversy, he was still a Ravens fan. In his letter to the team’s owner on Aug. 29 Burns charged that Ayanbadejo, who recently raffled off Ravens tickets to support a pro-gay marriage group, was “dividing the fan base” and should not bring politics into a sport that “is strictly for for pride, entertainment and excitement.”

Ayanbadejo responded to Burns' letter on Twitter, saying, “You know something is wrong when a politician is telling you to keep quiet. So much for freedom of speech, Mr Burns.”

Kluwe had quite a few more choice words for the Maryland delegate.

“How does gay marriage, in any way shape or form, affect your life?” Kluwe wrote in the letter posted to Deadspin.com on Friday. “They won’t come into your house and steal your children. They won’t magically turn you into a lustful c**kmonster. 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.”

You can read the full letter on Deadspin.com or the edited version on Kluwe’s blog.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

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