Chris Kluwe, Former Minnesota Vikings Punter, Says He Was Cut For Stance On Gay Marriage
Chris Kluwe, former Minnesota Vikings punter and gay rights activist who publicly supported same-sex marriage, says he was released from the NFL team in 2013 due to his beliefs.
Chris Kluwe Publicly Supports Gay Marriage
Kluwe, an outspoken activist, appeared on many talk shows and spoke freely about his support of same-sex marriage throughout 2012, while he was still playing for the Vikings.
Kluwe was released from the Vikings in June 2013, before the beginning of the official 2013 season, with one year left on his contract. At the time of his dismissal, Kluwe remained quiet over the issue, but now, one year later, Kluwe has decided to take his side of the story public in an op-ed piece on Deadspin, published Jan. 2, 2014.
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In 2012, Kluwe became one of the NFL’s most politically recognizable figures after speaking out against the Minnesota Gay Marriage Amendment. And he quickly became a household name after he wrote an open letter admonishing Maryland state delegate, Emmett C. Burns Jr., who had contacted the Baltimore Ravens owner urging him to silence Ravens linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo on the subject of gay marriage.
Kluwe’s letter began by defending Ayanbadejo’s freedom of speech, writing, “By using your position as an elected official (when referring to your constitutents so as to implicitly threaten the Ravens organization) to state that the Ravens should ‘inhibit such expressions from your employees,’ more specifically Brendon Ayanbadejo… you are clearly violating the First Amendment.”
After defending Ayanbadejo’s right to free speech, Kluwe went on to state his own personal views regarding gay marriage, asking Burns, “Why do you hate freedom? Why do you hate the fact that other people want a chance to live their lives and be happy, even though they may believe in something different than you or act different than you? How does gay marriage, in any way shape or form, affect your life?”
Chris Kluwe Claims Coaches Did Not Approve Of His Activism
The letter was published Sept. 7, 2012, and, according to Kluwe’s recent op-ed, he was called into a meeting with Vikings head coach Leslie Frazier the very next day:
“Once inside, Coach Frazier immediately told me that I ‘needed to be quiet, and stop speaking out on this stuff’ (referring to my support for same-sex marriage rights)… He reiterated his fervent desire for me to cease speaking on the subject, stating that ‘a wise coach once told me there are two things you don’t talk about in the NFL, politics and religion.’”
Kluwe goes on to state that Frazier tried to call in a public relations assistant in order to shape Kluwe’s message; something Kluwe describes as a way for Frazier to try to control his speech, not help him. Kluwe also alleges that, following the publication of his open letter, requests for interviews and public appearances processed through the Vikings PR team stopped coming through to him directly.
Coach Mike Priefer Accused Of Making Homophobic Comments
Perhaps the most damning allegations put forth in the op-ed piece are those Kluwe writes about Minnesota Vikings special-teams coordinator Mike Priefer. After Kluwe’s open letter to Congressman Burns went viral, Kluwe alleges that Priefer began using homophobic language and taunts in Kluwe’s presence, something he had never done before.
“He [Priefer] would ask me if I had written any letters defending ‘the gays’ recently and denounce as disgusting the idea that two men would kiss, and he would constantly belittle or demean any idea of acceptance or tolerance… Mike Priefer also said on multiple occasions that I would wind up burning in hell with the gays, and that the only truth was Jesus Christ and the Bible.”
Kluwe says that he did not immediately report these exchanges for fear of loosing his job, and claims that Priefer continued to make many of the players uncomfortable, including those who didn’t agree with Kluwe. He points to one incident in particular, in which he alleges Priefer stated, “We should round up all the gays, send them to an island, and then nuke it until it glows.”
Kluwe concludes his op-ed by calling for a swift end to Priefer’s coaching career, writing, “If there’s one thing I hope to achieve from sharing this story, it’s to make sure that Mike Priefer never holds a coaching position again in the NFL, and ideally never coaches at any level… It’s inexcusable that someone would use his status as a teacher and a role model to proselytize on behalf of his own doctrine of intolerance, and I hope he never gets another opportunity to pass his example along to anyone else.”
Priefer responded to these allegations on Thursday, denying that he ever made less than tolerant remarks in the locker room.
“I vehemently deny today’s allegations made by Chris Kluwe. I want to be clear that I do not tolerate discrimination of any type and am respectful of all individuals,” Priefer said in a statement.
Vikings kicker, and Kluwe’s former teammate, Blair Walsh, also released a statement in response to the op-ed, supporting Priefer:
“I have had countless conversations and interactions with coach Priefer, and I personally can attest to his integrity and character…The allegations made today are reprehensible and totally not compatible with what Mike Priefer stands for.”
I fully stand behind Coach Priefer, Rick Spielman, and Leslie Frazier. Just released a statement regarding the issue at hand.
— Blair Walsh (@BlairWalsh3) January 2, 2014
Meanwhile, the Vikings released a statement declaring their intention to investigate the allegations made against Priefer. However, the statement also refuted Kluwe’s claims that he had been cut due to his political views. Minnesota State Senator Scott Dibble also responded to Kluwe’s article, calling for “a thorough investigation.”
“Kluwe’s allegations raise very serious concerns about the culture within the Minnesota Vikings organization. As a business partner of the state of Minnesota, we have strong expectations that the team uphold the values of tolerance and equality that we all share. I am encouraged to some degree by the team’s statement in response, but the charges warrant a thorough investigation. If shown to be true, decisive action must be taken,” Sen. Dibble said in a statement.
Kluwe has also received public support from fellow NFL players and gay rights activists, including Ayanbadejo, who tweeted about Kluwe’s op-ed.
There you have it!!! @ChrisWarcraft let's you know exactly why he doesn't have a job in the #nfl
— Brendon Ayanbadejo (@brendon310) January 2, 2014
Scott and I willingly retired. Chris not so much @janesports @ChrisWarcraft @sfujita55
— Brendon Ayanbadejo (@brendon310) January 2, 2014
Kluwe has remained silent since the publication of his op-ed, and has not responded to Priefer’s statements. He did, however, thank his fans for their support via Twitter.
Thank you everyone for the feedback. I think the thing I regret most is I didn't get to play any video games at all today. #tragedy, #jokes
— Chris Kluwe (@ChrisWarcraft) January 3, 2014
– Olivia Truffaut-Wong
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