Chris Kluwe, the former Minnesota Vikings punter who used his platform to promote gay marriage, believes that his beliefs cost him a job in the NFL. To rectify this injustice, Kluwe wants a Vikings coach who holds views opposed to gay marriage to be barred from pursuing his livelihood.
Welcome to the intolerant world inhabited by so many advocates of “tolerance,” who repeat the word as though suffering from Tourette’s syndrome but never bother to ponder its meaning. Deadspin features Kluwe’s Alice-in-Wonderland looking glass for anyone to spy through in the form of a poison-pen article.
“If there’s one thing I hope to achieve from sharing this story,” Kluwe writes, “it’s to make sure that Mike Priefer never holds a coaching position again in the NFL, and ideally never coaches at any level. (According to the Pioneer Press, he is ‘the only in-house candidate with a chance’ at the head-coaching job.) It’s inexcusable that someone would use his status as a teacher and a role model to proselytize on behalf of his own doctrine of intolerance, and I hope he never gets another opportunity to pass his example along to anyone else.”
Pot. Kettle. Black.
Kluwe trashes his former coach Leslie Frazier and Vikings GM Rick Spielman as cowards, and special teams coordinator Mike Priefer as a “bigot.” Priefer denied specific allegations outlined by Kluwe (e.g., the coach wished to drop a nuclear bomb on homosexuals). He notes that the team’s owner took him aside to congratulate him on his public stance and that the Vikings PR staff handled non-football related media requests for him, albeit in a manner he judged inadequate. A specific point of outrage centers around the team’s efforts to compel the outspoken gay-rights advocate to focus on football.
“To me, it’s getting old,” Kluwe reports coach Priefer as telling the press. “He’s got to focus on punting and holding.” Throughout the piece, Kluwe argues that Priefer tried to silence him but instead convinces that the special teams coach had a point about wanting Kluwe to concentrate on football. Kluwe talks about adhering a message of support for punter Ray Guy’s Hall of Fame bid upon his uniform in violation of NFL rules, tweeting out nasty messages aimed toward Pope Benedict upon his retirement, writing op-eds and letters in support of same-sex marriage, playing in a rock band during off hours, and, at the conclusion of the article, referencing the book he published after last season. By including so many tertiary matters in the piece, Kluwe unwittingly paints himself as the scatterbrain Priefer sought to reorient toward the gridiron.
Had Kluwe punted like Ray Guy, instead of merely talked about Ray Guy, he might have a point. As it turns out, Chris Kluwe ranks as a mediocre NFL punter. Twenty-one other punters boasted a higher yards-per-punt average last season, with the average net yardage gain during his punts surpassed by sixteen other specialists, most of whom didn’t enjoy climate-controlled conditions in their home games as Kluwe did.
And for a punter coming off knee surgery and entering his ninth year in a league that escalates minimum pay based on seniority, finding yourself a salary-cap casualty shouldn’t be such a shock. Just ask Zoltan Mesko, a punter of a similar caliber who, like Kluwe, got edged out for his job in 2013 by a rookie requiring a smaller hit against the salary cap. After getting cut by the New England Patriots, presumably for reasons beyond his unknown stance on gay marriage, Mesko landed a job with the Pittsburgh Steelers, and this week, with the playoff-bound Cincinnati Bengals. Neither Mesko nor Kluwe are bottom tier punters, but punter remains a bottom-tier position. Its practitioners can expect a journeyman’s existence even when doing their jobs well.
Nowhere in the piece does Kluwe mention that he, like Mesko, enjoyed a second chance. He just didn’t make anything of his opportunity. After losing his job to a fifth-round draft pick, Kluwe moved west to Oakland, where he competed for a roster spot. He lost the preseason competition. Were the Raiders, who invited him to their 2013 training camp, bigots for cutting him, too?
The Vikings have moved on from Kluwe. Clearly, Kluwe hasn’t moved on from the Vikings.
“I honestly don’t know if my activism was the reason I got fired,” Kluwe admits of his coda in Minnesota. “However, I’m pretty confident it was.” His statistics pretty confidently state that it wasn’t.