Former NFL player Chris Kluwe has released a scathing op-ed calling out his old team, the Minnesota Vikings, for which he was a punter for eight years; he alleges that he was fired because of homophobia-related bigotry.
In the piece, published on the sports news site Deadspin, Kluwe states that he was fired by “a bigot” and “two cowards” for standing up for a cause he believed in.
That cause happened to be marriage equality; Kluwe is straight, but when approached by Minnesotans for Marriage Equality in the summer of 2012, asking if he wanted to help defeat a measure that would have banned same-sex marriage, he agreed. Kluwe even checked with the Vikings’ legal department first, and they gave it the okay; thus, Kluwe “did several radio advertisements and a dinner appearance for Minnesotans for Marriage Equality.”
He adds, “No one from the Vikings’ legal department told me I was doing anything wrong or that I had to stop.”
That fall, however, a letter Kluwe had written went viral. According to Kluwe, immediately afterwards several team officials went on the offensive—in both senses of the word.
In the article, Kluwe states that Priefer began making openly homophobic comments, such as expressing disgust at the idea of two men kissing.
Then, Kluwe writes, it got worse: “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.’”
Additionally, Kluwe says, “both my net- and gross-punting marks were nearly in line with my career averages” that season, yet he was getting negative feedback—and being treated much more coldly than usual. (For the curious, his career stats can be found here.)
On May 6, 2013, Kluwe was told the team was releasing him: “Rick told me that this was solely about competition and had nothing to do with my views. I do not believe he was telling the truth.”
In the postscript to his story, he writes, “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. All we can do is try to expose their behavior when we see it and call them to account for their actions.
“Thank you for taking the time to read my story. Never be afraid to do what’s right. If no one ever says anything, nothing ever changes.”