Former NFL punter Chris Kluwe on Thursday accused the Minnesota Vikings’ management of conspiring to have him fired because of his vocal support for same-sex marriage.
“(F)or eight years I was the punter for the Minnesota Vikings. In May 2013, the Vikings released me from the team,” Kluwe said in a lengthy op-ed that first appeared on Deadspin. “At the time, quite a few people asked me if I thought it was because of my recent activism for same-sex marriage rights, and I was very careful in how I answered the question. My answer, verbatim, was always, ‘I honestly don't know, because I'm not in those meetings with the coaches and administrative people.’”
“However, I'm pretty confident it was,” he added.
Kluwe’s op-ed recounts the numerous clashes he had with Vikings management over his recent support for same-sex marriage, recalling several tense standoffs with “the bigot,” that is, special-teams coordinator Mike Priefer.
Priefer “would use homophobic language in my presence. He had not done so during minicamps or fall camp that year, nor had he done so during the 2011 season,” Kluwe wrote.
“He 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,” he said.
The relationship between the punter and the special teams coordinator became increasingly hostile, according to Kluwe.
Priefer allegedly joked “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. He said all this in a semi-joking tone, and I responded in kind, as I felt a yelling match with my coach over human rights would greatly diminish my chances of remaining employed,” Kluwe said.
“I felt uncomfortable each time Mike Priefer said these things. After all, he was directly responsible for reviewing my job performance, but I hoped that after the vote concluded in Minnesota his behavior would taper off and eventually stop,” he added.
The relationship eventually became so hostile that Coach Priefer reportedly said to Kluwe: “We should round up all the gays, send them to an island, and then nuke it until it glows."
And that apparently ended the professional relationship between Priefer and Kluwe, whose pro-gay activism has included radio and television interviews, speaking engagements and attacks on the Roman Catholic Church for its stance on gay marriage.
But Priefer wasn’t alone, according to the former punter. Kluwe alleges his firing involved “two cowards,” Vikings head coach Leslie Frazier and general manager Rick Spielman. The thrust of the punters complaint against Frazier and Spielman is this: They should have stood up for him and recognized that he was fighting for something he cared deeply about.
Now, it should be noted that the 32-year-old Kluwe is four years past the average retirement age for professional NFL players. Further, as noted in Kluwe's op-ed, five years of playing on a torn meniscus forced him to undergo surgery recently, followed by a few weeks of rehab.
True, the sport is far less taxing on punters and it’s not unusual to have kickers between the ages of 30 and 38 playing professional football. Also, according to Kluwe, he rebounded quickly from his surgery and he maintains that he still has what it takes to play in the big leagues.
His firing may have been caused by ideological differences, but his age and recent surgery may have also played a role.
“I can still hit the ball 45 yards outside the numbers with good hangtime, and at the tryouts I've had this year I've gotten praise from the scouts and personnel people on hand, but for whatever reason I cannot find a job,” he explained. “However, it's clear to me that no matter how much I want to prove I can play, I will no longer punt in the NFL, especially now that I've written this account.”
“Some will ask if the NFL has a problem with institutionalized homophobia. I don't think it does. I think there are homophobic people in the NFL, in all positions, but that's true for society as well, and those people eventually get replaced,” Kluwe wrote. “All we can do is try to expose their behavior when we see it and call them to account for their actions.”
Click here to read more about the former kicker’s story.
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