Chris Kluwe, moral crusader no more

AP Photo/Jim Mone/File

Chris Kluwe is finished in this town.

The former Minnesota Viking punter, who became a folk hero during the debate over an amendment banning same-sex marriage in the state, is the biggest casualty of his own pursuit of his tormentor, Vikings special teams coach Mike Priefer, who, Kluwe says, regularly hurled homophobic slurs.

An investigation into the allegations, funded by the Vikings, revealed one incident in which Kluwe mocked child rape victims of Penn State football coach Jerry Sandusky. Priefer has been suspended for three games by the Vikings. Kluwe has lost something more valuable: respect.

Kluwe still intends to sue the Vikings, but people who might’ve had a favorite in the battle are staying on the sidelines.

Kluwe also tweeted an allegation that two players were caught with an underage girl. He didn’t elaborate.

“However, in referring obliquely to statutory rape, Kluwe appears to be adhering to the same ‘code of the locker room’ that enabled Priefer’s homophobic comment and, in a less direct way, Sandusky’s sexual predation,” the Washington Post says today.

Ted Glover, writing at the Daily Norseman, says Kluwe has now “lost the moral high ground.”

Kluwe and his lawyer have alleged that the partial report the Vikings released Friday is full of lies, and in the end, he very well may be right. For all we know, Priefer said every single thing Kluwe alleges, and when this goes to trial it will come out. And if that’s the case, I hope that justice is served.

But no matter what happens in the trial, Chris Kluwe has lost all moral high ground in this, and he won’t be getting it back anytime soon. Because at the end of the day, he’s acted in ways not much better than the people he’s accusing.

In today’s Star Tribune, columnist Jim Souhan says Kluwe and the Vikings “deserve each other.”

You can find exceptional human beings in the NFL about as often as you can find exceptional human beings in any other workplace, but a valued player can get away with bad behavior if he contributes on the field.

Kluwe wasn’t valued, and had stopped producing at a level commensurate with his salary. He deserved to be cut.

What’s sad is that Kluwe’s campaign against the Vikings would be worthwhile if he hadn’t adopted the same behavior he now condemns.

And Greg Doyel at CBS Sports said Kluwe has become “the very thing we hate.

Seriously, can you look at Chris Kluwe the same way again? Not me. Can’t take him seriously now that we know he tore a hole out of the back of his pants and paraded around the locker room as a “Penn State victim.” That’s so awful, and so stupid, Richie Incognito may well have chuckled when he heard about it.

The next time something needs to be said on behalf of homosexuals in the NFL — on behalf of Rams linebacker Michael Sam — or even on behalf of the LBGT community, period, Chris Kluwe is not someone I want to hear it from. Not as the voice of compassion. Not anymore.

Update/Related: Brad Michael: Vikings failed gay community with Chris Kluwe investigation (Outsports).

  • John O.

    Kluwe extended his proverbial 15 minutes of fame to 17 minutes. He probably should have stopped at 16.

  • Beth

    How are people surprised by this? When Kluwe wrote his infamous “lustful cock monster” letter, where was the outrage over his crudeness? He is a product of the macho sports environment he sought to expose. He is also a product of the one dimensional Disney hero culture we fans help perpetuate. We knew Kluwe wasn’t perfect, but we turned a blind eye during the fairy tale. Now we’re bored with the story, so we we’ll toss aside our hero, or turn him into a villian for our amusement. Kluwe was never a saint, never a monster, just whatever we thought the story needed.

    • ironkitten

      Why should we have been outraged over his crudity again?

    • Milford Brimley

      No one is tossing Kluwe aside. He’s getting one-sided blowback from sports columnists (and a certain MPR blogger).

  • kcmarshall

    Based on this, I would say the Vikings strategy in releasing THEIR report succeeded completely. They got to digest their findings and cherry pick what to release and – surprise – the guy on the other side ends up looking bad. Oh, and the coach in question gets suspended for a few games too. Nothing to see here, move along.

    I’ll admit, I’m unabashedly on #TeamKluwe. Maybe nobody comes out of this looking super-human but I’m happy to stand on his side even if he took part in jerky locker room BS. You can pick your side between the coach who genuinely believes gays should be rounded up and the guy who teased a Penn State fan-coworker.

    • Turdd Ferguson

      You don’t know that he truly believes that. He could have very well been using the same shock technique on Kluwe that Kluwe used on the strength coach. I know if I were in Priefer’s shoes, I would have been pissed enough to say some vulgar things about his mother even.

  • Good to hear how the moral referees weighed it. The morality police are in fine form today.

    Also, where is this proverbial “moral high ground” and how may I find it? Jim Souhan seems to know where it is located.

    • Morality is situational for many people. I suspect many of the people who think Kluwe is being unfairly painted as a hypocrite are the same people who raised to Twitter to guffaw about the GOP family-values congressman who admitted having an affair.

      • I’m not saying the story is inaccurate, but I find it funny how the people who are running with this “Penn State” allegation as truth are the same people who argued with me that we couldn’t believe any word of Kluwe’s accusations until we read the NFL investigation report. They afforded a corporation the benefit of the doubt, but not the person speaking truth to power.

      • Milford Brimley

        How is Kluwe a hypocrite here? Did he fire someone for supporting gay marriage?

        • Turdd Ferguson

          Man you’re truly daft if you think he was fired for supporting gay marriage. In reality, he was fired for being a distraction not worth paying to keep around.

          • Milford Brimley

            Yeah, not really.

  • Also, I love the argument that because the whistle blower has made mistakes, we no longer need to pay attention to the stuff he blew the whistle about. Kind’ve like Edward Snowden, I guess.

    • Who made that argument?

      • From the Souhan quote: “What’s sad is that Kluwe’s campaign against the Vikings would be worthwhile if he hadn’t adopted the same behavior he now condemns.”

        From the Doyel quote: “Can’t take him seriously now that we know he tore a hole out of the back of his pants and paraded around the locker room as a ‘Penn State victim.’ … “The next time something needs to be said on behalf of homosexuals in the NFL — on behalf of Rams linebacker Michael Sam — or even on behalf of the LBGT community, period, Chris Kluwe is not someone I want to hear it from.”

        Bottom line: Because of WHO he is, WHAT he has to say is no longer important.

        • esselless

          Doyel in particular never said that at all. He just said that Kluwe is not a credible spokesperson, which seems quite right.

          • “But this stuff does diminish Chris Kluwe, and is a reminder to all of us — me included — that noble intentions in some areas of life, even most areas of life, do not make any of us untouchable or incapable of becoming on occasion the very thing we hate.”

          • r.colby

            We hate homophobes who wish people dead. We roll our eyes at tasteless jokes, we don’t hate the people who tell them.

      • Jeff

        Seriously Bob? That’s the entire tone of the article?

  • Ken Kjer

    I guess none of you have ever been around a bunch of arrogant athletes. More dirt comes out of their mouths than you can imagine.

  • Milford Brimley

    This article make sense only if you think Kluwe’s crusade was against the “code of the locker room”.

    In actuality, his allegation was that he was let go because of his outspoken support for gay marriage, and the revelation that one of his coaches has been suspended for using homophobic slurs seems to support this allegation.

  • MrE85

    I was never on the Kluwe bandwagon, so his latest stumble doesn’t really change my opinion of him as a mediocre placekicker who self-appointed himself to speak for the gay community.

    • kcmarshall

      His placekicking was beyond mediocre. His punting on the other hand set the Vikings season record…

      • MrE85

        As you can see, I’m one of those sport geniuses Sid is always talking about.

      • He has a number of team records (mostly career records).

        But football is different in that contracts aren’t guaranteed and they don’t pay you for what you did, they pay you for what you’re likely to do.

        Jeff Locke was cheaper and, as it turned out, better. He was also younger.

        I think it’s reasonable to suggest that the Vikings got rid of someone they viewed as a PITA, AND got better, AND saved money all at the same time.

        • “Jeff Locke was cheaper and, as it turned out, better. He was also younger.”

          Locke is cheaper and younger, but not better. The stats bear this out.

    • DavidG

      So any non-gay person (especially a prominent person) who speaks out, has self-appointend themselves as their spokesperson?

      • MrE85

        When they keep speaking, and speaking, and speaking, I would say yes.

        • DavidG

          he kept speaking because people challenged him and he responded, and more importantly, groups like United For Marriage embraced him.

  • mhelbacka

    I agree that Kluwe’s ass-inine locker room behavior does not erase years of homophobic harassment by the Vikings management. He never said he represented some “Moral high ground.”

    • Who said it erased anything?

      • r.colby

        This piece is the means by which we all stop talking about the nfl and now focus on chris’s personal imperfections. Pieces like this allow people like yourself to give excuses about ignoring the larger problem.

        • Really? I excused the larger problem? Where did I do that?

          Specifically, I mean.

          Mike Prieffer got a three-game suspension. Hardly ignored. He made, what he said, are jokes about homosexuals. Hardly ignored.

          As for the larger issue, we’re not going to know what it is until Magnuson and Robbins release the report. But Kluwe’s allegations have hardly been ignored.

          And of course, there’s nothing to prevent anyone from talking both about Kluwe’s fall from grace and the larger problem.

          • John

            Bob Collins you are a tool! Prieffer made “jokes about homosexuals”??? He said they should be rounded up on an island and then the island should be nuked – how is that funny??? You – Bob Collins – are an IDIOT.

          • You had just two choices, John. You could have an adult, intelligent conversation with someone with whom you disagree. Or you could just write insults as mask for the lack of the ability to communicate cogent and persuasive thoughts which I believe you may actually possess, and which would have shown some respect to every person who has shared their thoughts today, whether they disagree with me or agree.

            You had just two choices.

  • Jeffrey

    I find it curious that the investigation resulted in suspending a Vikings coach – seemingly supporting the allegations of Kluwe in the first place – but this piece focuses solely on discrediting Kluwe. Pretty disappointing.

    • Milford Brimley

      It’s as if we are to believe that making a joke about Penn State is essentially the same thing as firing someone for supporting gay marriage.

      • I think the situation speaks for itself and doesn’t need to be reframed to fit a desired outcome.

        The reality is that while Kluwe gave ammunition to his social-issue-averse team, he wasn’t a very good punter. And they’d already drafted a better one. So the “he was fired for supporting gay marriage” is perhaps truthful, but isn’t the entire story. But it plays well.

        As for minimizing jokes about child rape victims, you’re asking the wrong guy.

        • Milford Brimley

          So he’s not actually a hypocrite, is what you seem to be saying.

          • You see the pattern here where you redefine the message to fit your belief, right?

          • Milford Brimley

            I see me trying to make sense of the facts you’re tossing out. One way I like to make sense of someone’s ideas is to rephrase/reformulate those ideas based on my understanding of them and then ask them if my reformulation is consistent with what they think. I don’t see any problem with this.

            Clearly you have an opinion here. Elsewhere in these comments, you characterize Kluwe as being a hypocrite (at least, you describe his defenders as defending him from the accusation of hypocrisy). Do you actually think he’s a hypocrite?

          • I believe he was on the right side of the same-sex marriage debate. I believe he was correct in his assertion that homophobia should not be tolerated in the workplace. I believe he is a hypocrite on the question of creating a hostile work environment.

            You?

          • Milford Brimley

            I’m under the impression that his allegations were that he was let go because of his outspoken support for gay marriage, not that he was subjected to a hostile work environment. So I can’t seen the hypocrisy thing, because I think it requires ascribing motives to Kluwe that aren’t necessarily there.

          • Kluwe’s assertion is that the Vikings created a hostile work environment based on sexual orientation.

            As Outsports said today:

            You can’t claim to be the victim of an insensitive culture when you are contributing to that culture yourself. The fact that Kluwe’s teasing and jokes were directed at one person on the team, something he confirmed with me Sunday night, is particularly troubling.

          • Milford Brimley

            “You can’t claim to be the victim of an insensitive culture when you are contributing to that culture yourself.”

            ^^ This is such an obviously false assertion. I’m not sure why you cited it. The fact of the matter is that there are relevant fundamental differences between making rape jokes (which I’m pretty sure are always tasteless) and creating an institutional environment where coaches feel free to say that all gay people should be killed.

          • Go on.

            Outsports, I believe, isn’t equating the institutional culture with a “rape joke” (I’m sorry, I had to put that in quotes, it’s so vile to even consider there is such a thing and, as I said earlier, I’m not the person to try to defend “rape jokes.”)

            It’s suggest the lack of moral clarity between the two.

          • Milford Brimley

            Your comment is vague. Go on?

            Chris Kluwe didn’t control the culture of the Vikings organization, even though he participated in it.

          • “Go on.” = “Say more about that.”

        • “… he wasn’t a very good punter. And they’d already drafted a better one.”

          He was only the best punter the Vikings have ever had:

          http://bleacherreport.com/articles/1659822-power-ranking-the-5-greatest-punters-in-minnesota-vikings-history/page/7

          Bonus – Kluwe’s stats during his last year with the Vikings were better than Locke’s stats last year, and Kluwe was a better directional punter.

          • I’m sorry, I have a personal policy of never getting into a discussion in which the Bleacher Report is a citation. :*)

          • Then just look at the stats.

            Page 201 of the Vikings media guide:

            http://prod.static.vikings.clubs.nfl.com/assets/docs/2013/2013-media-guide.pdf

          • Which one of those made Kluwe at $1 million a logical alternative to Locke?

          • I was taking issue with the “Locke is a better punter than Kluwe” which is just not true.

            Kluwe, apparently, was told several times by
            coaches throughout his career not to kick the ball as far as he could because he’d out kick the “coverage.”

  • JDan

    I can safely say that 99% of Minnesota is getting really tired of the whole thing.

  • disqussion

    how about just quit looking to ATHLETES (!) for moral leadership, to be good role models and other forms of emulative cultural authority? they are simply highly compensated entertainers.

    • There’s a pretty fair chance that if Chris Kluwe had not provided his leadership on the question of same-sex marriage, there would likely be a ban in the MN constitution.

      • MrE85

        Wow. I totally disagree. I guess we have differing views on Mr. Kluwe’s influence on public opinion. Unless you are being sarcastic. Sometimes I can’t tell. 😉

        • No, I believe that. I think Chris Kluwe led on an issue in his sphere that traditionally has been opposed to same-sex marriage. I don’t think it’s possible to minimize his impact on that debate.

          But I can see where years later it might have looked like a slam dunk.

          • MrE85

            I’ll admit that Chris Kluwe is better known to the average Minnesotan than Richard Carlbom, but I remain unconvinced. Perhaps because I’m not a big sports guy, and my views on this topic were formed years before a football player talked about it. So maybe it’s just me.
            We agree on this: it will look like a slam dunk, and sooner than we might think. This is one part of today’s crazy world that’s changing for the better, and its changing fast.

      • disqussion

        I don’t question that he authentically believed in what he said and did, nor am I saying that athletes can’t hold or advocate for social change. But positioning Kluwe as the lead for marriage equality conflates publicity and ‘newsworthiness’ as moral leadership. While it got a lot of press, I’m not too sure calling people potential “lustful cockmonsters” was an effective moral leadership position — or even helpful oratory.

  • Tom Scott

    Chris Kluwe is finished in this town? And your first aggregated citation is plucked from a Viking fan site? (Daily Norseman…something this news junky/vikings fan never heard of until this piece.) Sorry. Most of us will accept his apology and continue to be grateful for his outspoken efforts to combat homophobia and ignorance in pro sports.

    • No doubt. And there’s no reason you shouldn’t. That said, his days of providing a moral voice on the question of a hostile work environment are over.

      He’s a guy with an employment dispute now. Nothing more.

      • Milford Brimley

        Since when has he been a guiding light on the subject of hostile work environments?

      • Tom Scott

        That distinction seems to be quite more nuanced than your lead line. One of the reasons I like MPR is that I am so exhausted from all the hyperbole out there. I realize this is a blog, but I expect more from this website.

        • It’s not nuanced at all. It merely repeats that he’s no longer able to function as a moral crusader. There’s no distinction to be made. He’s just a guy mad that he got cut. It’s a big line.

          In many ways, he becomes another tragic figure in professional sports.

  • Catie

    The difference being that Kluwe saw his errors and attempted to right them. Priefer did not. And why should we be outraged over crudeness when that’s all anything is these days? TV, radio, politics…his “lustful cock monster” piece caught our attention because we’ve become accustomed to crudeness, so he spoke a language he knew we could easily understand.

  • Doug

    While I’m going to agree with Mr. Collins that Mr. Kluwe’s acknowledged actions were wrong, and another product of the locker room mentality, I do not agree that this lessens my respect for those areas where Mr. Kluwe overcame the culture he came out of.

    I do not understand the premise that our “folk heroes” need to be perfect and hold the moral high ground in all areas to be valid and valuable speakers for whatever cause they champion.

    Hazing his strength coach, and the words/methods he chose to do so were both wrong.

    Yet the quote “An investigation into the allegations, funded by the Vikings, revealed one incident in which Kluwe mocked child rape victims of Penn State football coach Jerry Sandusky” seems completely off base. While his actions certainly could be taken to be mocking the victims, what I view his actions as doing is hitting his strength coach on the lowest level possible. I have no doubt that Mr. Kluwe considers child molestation a serious crime. I also have no doubt that his strength coach does too, and that is exactly why it was an effective hazing technique.

    As I said above, Wrong. This was a reprehensible and morally indefensible action.

    Does it better inform me about Mr. Kluwe’s overall personality in a negative way? Absolutely. He did not escape the culture he grew up in unscathed.

    Does it make me consider him less of a moral crusader on the issues he’s been crusading on? No.