Kluwe returns with a blast at his former team

AP Photo/Jim Mone/File

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:

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.

  • DavidG

    Let’s guess who is more likely to find continued employment in the NFL: Kluwe or Mike Priefer.

    Even setting aside the CTE issue, the Vikings aren’t exactly giving me a single reason to care one whit about them.

  • Greg W

    I’m glad the full story has come out. The backlash he receives is unjustifiable. I was lucky to find out how awesome he was years ago during his conversations with the 93X Morning Show. It’s baffling he hasn’t been given a second chance. I’m sure he’s on the same black-list Kerry Rhodes ended up on.

    • Duke Powell

      In the NFL, running backs are worth a dime a dozen.

      Punters are worth about 0.009999999 of a dime.

      Being mouthy has caused Kluwe a lot of money.

      • http://blogs.mprnews.org/newscut/ Bob Collins

        I’m not a great football mind but it seems to me that 8 years is about the lifespan of a punter, isn’t it? I should think with salary caps and such, the veteran is increasingly going to be out of work early.

        • Duke Powell

          Assuming what you say is true, Kluwe is not out of a job due to his opinions regarding gay marriage.

          Right?

          • http://blogs.mprnews.org/newscut/ Bob Collins

            I couldn’t tell you why he’s out of a job. It’s of less interest to me than his description of life inside the Vikings clubhouse (locker room?). But, sure, there’s every possibility that he’s out of a job because that’s the way it goes with punters. I don’t know; I don’t obsess over football the way a lot of Minnesotans seem to.

            That said, if he were still with the team, and punting well, does it make “We should round up all the gays, send them to an island, and then nuke it until it glows” different?

          • David brauer

            Storifying Bob’s Patriots tweets …

          • http://blogs.mprnews.org/newscut/ Bob Collins

            I want the Patriots and Vikings to win and I watch the games but if you told me to pick out where a right tackle is, I couldn’t. The football season to me is September-January.

          • Duke Powell

            I’ve been inside NFL locker rooms before, during and after games. What Kluwe said may be true. Given the nature of those who play in the League, it wouldn’t surprise me a bit.

            However, Bob, you’re the guy who brought up the expiration date of a punter. If what you said is true, any team would trade one yard per punt, one way or another, to get rid of a guy who was poisoning the locker room.

            Teams are in it to win and make money. Social experiments are for non-profit agencies and the main-stream-media.

            Having followed this issue, I’d say that Chris Kluwe is a well ballanced individual — He has a chip on both shoulders.

          • http://blogs.mprnews.org/newscut/ Bob Collins

            Again, I don’t know what the expiration date of a punter is. Only casually noticing that they seem to tend not to last long. Whether that’s true or not, I don’t know.

            Similarly, I don’t know what it takes to “poison” an NFL locker room. I haven’t seen anything to suggest that he carried on a campaign within the clubhouse to defeat the same-sex marriage amendment or whether he poisoned the clubhouse by having views considered unacceptable within the environment.

          • Duke Powell

            Question, Who made more money in 2012, Chris Kluwe or Matt Birk? Second question, Who was worth more?

            As for the Viking’s decision to kick Kluwe loose, it seems that they had more sense than A & E or Cracker Barrel.

          • Greg W

            Priefer shouldn’t be on the staff if he takes that kind of antagonistic stance against people he disagrees.
            From a lot of the examples in the article, it seems like everyone except the ownership managed to earn black belts in passive-aggressive behavior.

        • Greg W

          8 years seems to be about the average for good punters. Kluwe’s stats showed he wasn’t slowing down. For active punters, it looks like the highest is about 14 years.

    • http://iwastoldtherewouldbebacon.blogspot.com/ Jess

      Don’t forget Brendan Ayanbadejo on that blacklist.

    • Rick McCoy

      Just as a note, Chris Kluwe did receive a second chance with the Oakland Raiders within 10 days of being cut by the Vikings and was cut before the season began. Not to defend the actions by the Vikings, I have no idea what happened behind closed doors, but the big thing overlooked in many stories on this is that he did get signed quickly and then cut again.

      • Greg W

        Often overlooked in this “Kluwe was no good” defense is the fact Marquette King (the guy who won the job in Oakland over Kluwe) was the league leader in Yards/Punt. Hard to top the #1 guy in the league.
        Also, I don’t buy this strategy about blaming his performance. Especially regarding the events leading up to the release.

  • MrE85

    It’s time we had an openly gay player or two to test Kluwe’s theories on bigotry in the NFL. Who will be the first out of the closet?

  • Pierce Frasier

    Regardless of the aspect of Kluwe’s employment, something most probably don’t care about in the first place, his writing exposes the kind of broad normalized bigotry in the professional athletic environment. The fact that this man’s position is one of great influence and importance underscores the kind of astonishing ignorant bigotry he vocalizes. The man is unfit to hold any sort of professional career as long as he continues to vocalize this kind of hate speech. In any other field, it would have been absolutely unacceptable. In the world of NFL Football, unfortunately, it’s easier for this kind of hate to still be vocalized comfortably.

  • Jillian

    What is his theory about why he was cut by the Raiders? I completely agree with his stance on marriage equality, but he was not a good punter.

    • http://www.fark.com/ Onan

      Of course statistically, he was the best punter in Vikings history and his stats for 2012 were better than his career averages.

      Bonus – His 2012 stats were better than Locke’s stats in 2013 and Kluwe was told time and again to kick the ball a shorter distance and for more hangtime for the benefit of the coverage.