When the NFL season ended last week, it meant punter Chris Kluwe went an entire season without an NFL job (he was cut by Oakland in preseason) for the first time in eight years.
Known for eschewing the usual lack of interest in social issues shared by other football players, Kluwe could not have been expected to go quietly. And yet, for most of the season, only a stray tweet — and an appearance on Wits — alerted us to the fact he was still out there. Somewhere.
Today, he came back in a big way with a Deadspin column — I Was An NFL Player Until I Was Fired By Two Cowards And A Bigot — that blasts his former employers.
The surprise is owner Zygi Wilf comes off looking like the good guy. And Leslie Frazier comes off looking worse than his “nice guy” image suggests, at least in the Kluwe affair.
He said Frazier told him to “stop speaking out” on the same-sex marriage ban amendment in 2012, even as Zygi Wilf told him to keep it up.
But he reserved his harshest criticism for special teams coordinator Mike Priefer, who he says used homophobic language around him once the amendment issue heated up.
He had not done so during minicamps or fall camp that year, nor had he done so during the 2011 season. 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. I tried to laugh these off while also responding with the notion that perhaps they were human beings who deserved to be treated as human beings. 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. 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. 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.
Near the end of November, several teammates and I were walking into a specialist meeting with Coach Priefer. We were laughing over one of the recent articles I had written supporting same-sex marriage rights, and one of my teammates made a joking remark about me leading the Pride parade. As we sat down in our chairs, Mike Priefer, in one of the meanest voices I can ever recall hearing, said: “We should round up all the gays, send them to an island, and then nuke it until it glows.” The room grew intensely quiet, and none of the players said a word for the rest of the meeting. The atmosphere was decidedly tense. I had never had an interaction that hostile with any of my teammates on this issue—some didn’t agree with me, but our conversations were always civil and respectful. Afterward, several told me that what Mike Priefer had said was “messed up.”
After surgery a year ago this month, Kluwe said he was never contacted by Mike Priefer, Leslie Frazier, or Vikings general manager Rick Spielman.
He was released by the Vikings in May, and said from the end of the season, he was never contacted by Frazier or any of the other coaches, and the only contact he had with Spielman was a request to stop tweeting about the resignation of the pope.
So there you have it. It’s my belief, based on everything that happened over the course of 2012, that I was fired by Mike Priefer, a bigot who didn’t agree with the cause I was working for, and two cowards, Leslie Frazier and Rick Spielman, both of whom knew I was a good punter and would remain a good punter for the foreseeable future, as my numbers over my eight-year career had shown, but who lacked the fortitude to disagree with Mike Priefer on a touchy subject matter. (Frazier was fired on Monday, at the conclusion of a 5-10-1 season.) One of the main coaching points I’ve heard throughout my entire life is, “How you respond to difficult situations defines your character,” and I think it’s a good saying. I also think it applies to more than just the players.
Kluwe said he wrote today’s article so that “Priefer never holds a coaching position again in the NFL.”
The Pioneer Press says he’s the only Vikings insider with a shot at the head coaching job, made available when the Vikings dumped Frazier earlier this week.
Let’s check the reviews on Kluwe’s favorite medium:
Chris Kluwe could have written a great article about homophobia in NFL locker rooms. He attached it to something with a flashy hook instead.
— Kevin W. Glass (@KevinWGlass) January 2, 2014
Kluwe is smart like Jason Collins. No job in NFL coming, so create a job for yourself. Hence him taking notes. Very smart, didn't fool me
— Robert Littal (@BlkSportsOnline) January 2, 2014
At least Erin Henderson fell on the sword to distract Vikings fans from Kluwe's article
— Matt Perison (@matt_perison) January 2, 2014
Relevant to the Kluwe piece: Zygi's wife, Audrey, is a booster of anti-bullying work for Garden State Equality: http://t.co/HW86NqtY14 (1/2)
— Devin Henry (@dhenry) January 2, 2014
Twitter: "It's okay for Priefer to say gays should be nuked because Chris Kluwe is an idiot and doesn't punt good."
— The Viking Age (@TheVikingAge) January 2, 2014
Update 3:44 p.m. -Vikings response:
As an organization, the Vikings consistently strive to create a supportive, respectful and accepting environment for all of our players, coaches and front office personnel. We do not tolerate discrimination at any level.
The team has long respected our players’ and associates’ individual rights, and, as Chris specifically stated, Vikings ownership supports and promotes tolerance, including on the subject of marriage equality. Because he was identified with the Vikings, Chris was asked to be respectful while expressing his opinions. Team ownership and management also repeatedly emphasized to Chris that the Vikings would not impinge on his right to express his views.
Any notion that Chris was released from our football team due to his stance on marriage equality is entirely inaccurate and inconsistent with team policy. Chris was released strictly based on his football performance.
We will have further comment at the appropriate time.