Chris Kluwe got a lot of attention when he lost his job with the Vikings this week.
Kluwe, an outspoken supporter of same-sex marriage, appealed to casual fans more than other players not so much because of his political views, it seems to me, but because he was accessible to fans via Twitter, through a blog, a local band, and many local appearances. In that respect, he wasn’t much different than the person next door. That’s what made him different.
Clearly he had fans because of his political views and his willingness to express them, but it’s still a little risky to assume — as Gov. Dayton did on Wednesday — that he was cut from the team because of those views, especially when there are plenty of football ” business” reasons for this week’s transaction.
Fans usually don’t much care when a player is cut because they feel no personal connection to that player.
In his column in the Star Tribune this week, columnist Jon Tevlin made the point that Kluwe the football player and Kluwe the citizen are two different things.
But the Vikings think Tevlin stepped over the line with this:
The Vikings push their players to be active in the community. Players often adopt a charity when they are rookies and engage them with varying amounts of time and energy. Most of the time that means letting them use the player’s name, or agreeing to the occasional photo op. Rare is the pro athlete who commits real time, or heaven forbid money, to the charity or issue.
Kluwe walked the walk. Which is why I’m not surprised the guy plans to publish a book of essays on, of all things, empathy. Has Minnesota had a more genuine pro athlete as community asset since Alan Page?
So today, the team pushed back, publishing a treatise on player involvement in the community, written by the team’s director of corporate communications.
After reading your column titled, “Kluwe made an impact on, off the field,” within which I certainly agree regarding Chris’ positive effect on the Minnesota community, I question your assumptions about other Vikings players’ community involvement. In your piece you indicate the majority of players only participate in charitable causes by letting an organization “use the player’s name or agreeing to the occasional photo op.” You also note, “Rare is the pro athlete who commits real time, or heaven forbid money, to the charity or issue.” As it relates to the Vikings, neither of those comments has any merit. In fact, the opposite is true; we are fortunate to have individuals throughout the organization, including numerous players, who are committed to giving time and/or money to various causes in our community.
Still, Tevlin’s point is a good one. Kluwe made a connection to fans that other players haven’t been able or willing to make. Why that is is debatable.