Former NFL Viking Chris Kluwe, who served as punter for eight years and was released in May 2013, published a scathing piece in Deadspin today, alleging his release from the Minnesota team was likely due to his outspoken support of same-sex marriage, an issue on which he publicly, repeatedly expressed his views, starting in the summer 2012, complete with media interviews and published writings. The headline? “I Was An NFL Player Before I Was Fired By Two Cowards and a Bigot.” Don’t hold back, Chris: tell us how you really feel.
The Vikings issued a statement in response today, noting: “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.” Adding credence to this is Kluwe’s lackluster prospects following his release: after sigining with the Oakland Raiders he was soon thereafter cut during training camp, and, despite tryouts with several teams afterward, has received no offer.
Kluwe’s column clocks in at, oh, around 100,000 words. Allow me to spare you and instead guide you through with excerpts:
1) Kluwe opens his column by noting that his recollections are driven from notes he jotted down at the time of the April 2013 draft, which he says he did “in case it is necessary to recall what happened” as he is doing today in this article, seven months later.
As a lawyer who has worked on corporate defense against employee wrongful termination claims, I can attest that an employee taking notes this way is often (not always but often) a telltale of someone who is either strangely paranoid, or, more likely, was laying the groundwork for a potential lawsuit or for a vengeful action (e.g., this Deadspin piece) in the future. (One would not be surprised if the Vikings decide to silence Kluwe with a handsome check, especially after today’s article — the team even issued a statement that it is “reviewing” Kluwe’s allegations.)
2) Kluwe claims he approached the Vikings’s head office in 2012, inquiring whether he was allowed to speak out in support of same-sex marriage and “was given the go-ahead.”
So which is it, Chris? Are the Vikings eerily resistant to players expressing any political or social opinions, or are they accepting of such? If the latter, as Kluwe alleges, how/why was he given the green-light in the first place? Kluwe also later notes that the team’s owner (!), Zygi Wilfi, personally told Kluwe he was proud of Kluwe’s support for same-sex marriage and encouraged him to continue speaking out, citing his son’s best friend’s gay wedding.
3) Kluwe’s own article shows it was not his activism but the way he went about it that made him a nightmare for any organization to handle. It seems at some point it became more important for Kluwe to be a media darling and activist, than a player who placed the organization first. For instance, recalling when the Vikings’s owner encouraged him to speak out, his response was: “I said that I would be sure not to say anything to denigrate the team, but that I would like to talk with anyone who was interested.” And later, as media requests flooded in: “I told Bob Hagan that from this point on, any media requests he received were to be forwarded immediately to me.”
Huh? If I were working in Human Resources or Public Relations for the Vikings, I’d have quit. Does Kluwe not realize that, as an NFL player, and a handsomely paid one, he was not at liberty to speak on a controversial issue with “anyone” or to filter through media requests himself? On top of that, he would handle media requests directly???
Kluwe notes that, in a second meeting with Coach Frazier on the matter, Frazier’s public-relations assistant (quite helpfully, it seems) outlined strategies for Kluwe’s speaking out, suggesting he focus on national media groups, for instance. But no, that was not OK in Kluwe’s eyes, who apparently saw himself not as a representative of the Vikings but as a one-man-media machine with no organization/employer whom he — whether willingly or not, unfairly or not — represented.
4) Let us assume Kluwe’s recollection is correct and Vikings top brass was not happy with his advocacy. Let us even assume that is what led to his being released from the team.
What Kluwe fails to grasp, as many in today’s society often do, is that NFL teams are private organizations: as such, they can release an employee for any reason that is not contrary to the law (e.g., race) and is not contractually forbidden. Moreover, the contracts players often sign with the teams include all manner of behavioral clauses, likely including that the player’s actions on-and-off the field not reflect poorly on the team. Oh, and did I mention the players have a very strong union that protects them? Somehow, however, Kluwe wishes for the reader to believe he is a victim of homophobes and cowardly-servants-of-homophoboes who wouldn’t just let-Chris-be-Chris.
If Kluwe’s stance was bringing unwanted attention onto the Vikings, and angering or alienating some Viking fans (which his views clearly did), the team would have been well within its rights to release him, if only from a purely public-relations-nightmare angle.
After all, when A&E suspended Duck Dynasty star Phil Roberston from his hit show, the Left constantly reminded Robertson’s defenders that A&E was a private network and could hire or fire as it deemed fit. Fair enough. Will these voices now also tell Kluwe: “Sorry, pal – we feel ya but the Vikings would have had a right to let you go, even if it was due to your personal views”?
5) But it’s the allegations Kluwe makes against Vikings ‘Special Teams’ coach Mike Priefer that are particularly chilling. According to Kluwe:
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.
Though Kluwe notes this was said in a “semi-joking tone,” he apparently nonetheless sees fit to publish this alleged statement of Priefer’s.
Things then get even more disturbing, as Kluwe recalls:
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.
Was this Priefer joking (albeit in an admittedly horrible, unacceptable way) again? Not according to Kluwe. OK, what of the teammates in the room? Can anyone corroborate this tale? What was the context? Was Priefer trying to get a rise out of Kluwe? Readers will have to forgive my skepticism but, as a conservative who supports same-sex marriage, I have had countless conversations with even the staunchest of opponents: never has one, even via anonymous accounts where the ugliest aspects of human nature reveal themselves, made such a disturbing remark. I therefore find it hard to believe Coach Priefer would have said such a thing, at least in any sincere manner.
6) The comical, delusional bit:
On Oct. 25, I had a poor game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and the Vikings brought in several punters for a workout to potentially replace me. I do not believe this was motivated by my speaking out on same-sex equality, though I do not know for sure.
In other words, your job performance sucked but, hey, let’s keep this: “Well, my release could’ve been over my same-sex-marriage views!” martyr-party-train going…
The facts? As ESPN‘s Kevin Seifert writes, Kluwe was “a 31-year-old veteran who had produced a below-average performance in 2012 based on the criteria the Vikings most valued. He was entering the final year of his contract, one that carried no salary cap hit if he were released, and was playing for a team that had been systematically replacing older players with younger ones.” And Heavy‘s Eric Levitz also notes that, while, “in 2012, Kluwe ranked 17th in the NFL in punt distance, however he ranked next to last for punts inside the 20-yard line.”
7) Did I mention Kluwe attacked the Catholic Church, too?
On Feb. 11, I received a message saying, “Please fly under radar please,” from a phone number I would later learn belonged to Rick Spielman. The text message presumably concerned several things I had tweeted that day regarding Pope Benedict XVI’s decision to step down. Spielman later called me and asked me to stop tweeting about the pope because angry people were ringing up team headquarters in Winter Park, Minn. It should be noted that my tweets concerned the lack of transparency and endemic institutional corruption of the Catholic Church, which among other things allowed child abuse to flourish.
At this point in Kluwe’s endless column, am just wondering: How was this guy not fired earlier?
8) Finally wrapping up this endless tale of woe, Kluwe writes:
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….
“Bigot.” “Cowards.” He used those words in the article’s own headline, lest we miss the smearing of his two former coaches. Did I mention Frazier is an African-American male? The idea that Frazier, a man who has no doubt struggled greatly in the face of prejudice in his own life, would be called a “coward,” does not sit right with me and should not sit well with Kluwe, either.
9) And he concludes on a final hilarious point, lacking any self awareness whatsoever:
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.
Does he not see the irony here? How one deals with difficult situations defines character, yes. Being released from an NFL team after average-to-mediocre performance and then publicly shaming individual men with horrific allegations that the release was caused by your (false) martyrdom… is a ‘great’ sign of your character, Chris.
10) His reason for the article?
If there’s one thing I hope to achieve from sharing this story, it’s to make sure that Mike Priefer never holds a coaching position again in the NFL, and ideally never coaches at any level….
Ah, ruining a man’s reputation and livelihood! A noble goal if there ever was one!
In conclusion — To Kluwe I say: Don’t sweat the NFL, sweetheart. You can always find a spot ‘punting’ nonsense as a self-righteous, self-absorbed activist. It seems you already have.
(all bold in this article is that of the author’s)
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