NFL commissioner Roger Goodell on Wednesday backed Baltimore Ravens linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo's right to advocate in support of gay marriage.

“I think in this day and age, people are going to speak up about what they think is important,” Goodell said at's Playbook's Lunch with Mike Allen. “They speak as individuals and that's an important part of democracy.”

Maryland Delegate Emmett Burns, also a pastor and founder of the Rising First Baptist Church, attempted to silence Ayanbadejo with a letter to Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti asking that he “inhibit such expressions” in support of Maryland's upcoming referendum on a gay marriage law approved by lawmakers. Minnesota Vikings punter Chris Kluwe was among those who came to Ayanbadejo's defense. On Sunday, Burns reversed course, saying the player has a right to speak his mind.

Ayanbadejo said in an e-mail released Wednesday by Marylanders for Marriage Equality that he “was not silenced.”

“In fact, what happened instead was pretty amazing – thousands of people joined me and spoke out in support of marriage equality. I even received messages from Steelers fans! Instead of being silenced, my team and my league stood with me in support,” Ayanbadejo wrote.