Minnesota Gophers basketball star Trevor Mbakwe joined Kluwe and Tuaolo at the Minneapolis fundraiser.
“To defeat the amendment, we need to aim our message at the independent and moderate, maybe Republican-leaning voters that just haven’t thought much about this issue,” said Tracy Call, an ad exec for Minnesotans for Equality, which organized the event.
Several sports figures say they were influenced by gay family members. Kluwe has a gay brother-in-law, “and I’d like to see him be able to get married someday,” he said.
Connor Barwin, a linebacker for the Houston Texans, has talked about his gay brother and his own support for equal marriage rights. Burke, the NHL scout, had a gay brother who also worked in hockey management but died in a 2010 car accident.
NFL leadership has supported players’ right to speak out. League spokesman Greg Aiello said a statement issued a decade ago still holds: “As an institution, the NFL is a meritocracy that also places a high priority on tolerance and diversity … on that basis an individual’s sexual orientation is entirely irrelevant.”
In Baltimore, Ravens center Matt Birk said he thought the NFL was evolving toward greater acceptance of homosexuality. He declined to talk about his own feelings on gay marriage, but spoke out strongly in support of other players’ freedom to take stands. And he said he was “absolutely” willing to play with a gay teammate.
Some of Kluwe’s teammates were more reluctant to talk about it.
“I’ve just been mainly focusing on getting snaps to him. So I’ve stayed away from his media blitz,” said Cullen Loeffler, the Vikings long snapper who spends as much time with Kluwe as anyone on the team.
But Kluwe said the private response from Vikings players and management has been positive.
“For me personally, what I’m seeing is guys who are willing to live and let live,” Kluwe said. “They don’t really care about it, and at the end of the day when we’re in the locker room, it’s what can you do to help us win on Sunday?”
Associated Press reporter Dave Campbell and AP freelancer Jason Butt in Baltimore contributed to this report.
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