Former Minnesota Vikings punter Chris Kluwe appeared on CNN’s “AC360” on Monday night to plead his case once again.
Transcript as follows:
COOPER: Chris Kluwe joins us again now tonight. He’s taking part currently in Athlete Ally, and All Out Principle 6 campaign in support of nondiscrimination of the Winter Olympics in Sochi. He’s also the author of “Beautifully Unique Sparkleponies: On Myths, Morons, Free Speech, Football and Assorted Absurdities.” Chris, it’s good to have you on the program again. I’m sorry it’s under these circumstances. This article you wrote, and the headline is, “I was an NFL Player until I was Fired by Two Cowards and a Bigot,” one of the cowards you talk about is your former head coach, the bigot, you say, is the special teams coordinator, the coach on the Minnesota Vikings. You say he said vocally to you, over repeatedly — what you describe as homophobic comments. At one point he said something about we should round up all the gays, send them to an island and then nuke it until it glows. He said that you were going to hell along with the other gays. Did other people, other teammates hear him say these things?
KLUWE: Yes, there are — there are witnesses to all the things I put in that piece on Deadspin. And, you know, I made sure that I had witnesses because otherwise that’s a very easy defamation of character case. And you know it would be — would be pretty easy for him to prevail on the court of law.
COOPER: Because, that coach, particularly the special teams coordinator, he categorically denies this, he says he has gay family members. What did you make of that?
KLUWE: Well, you know, it’s not like he’s going to come out and say, yes, I said all those things, please end my career now, you know, generally these things go through a certain legal process. But I’m 100 percent confident in everything that I related as how it happened and really encouraged by the fact that the Vikings are taking it seriously and opening an independent investigation because I think, you know, once they talk with people, they’ll find out what happened.
COOPER: The thing about this — independent investigation, and this is being run by two attorney, I believe, maybe one — a former judge or current judge that they don’t have subpoena powers, so it’s up to the players whether or not they want to cooperate or whether they just want to say, well, I don’t remember what this person may have said. Are you confident players will step forward and back up your account?
KLUWE: Yes, I’m confident because, you know, it’s the right thing to do, and then also, one of the things that I’m going to push for and will absolutely demand, is the fact that there must be anonymity for these witnesses because being blackballed in the NFL is a very real possibility. And that’s not something I’m willing to, you know, force my friends, my former teammates to submit to. And if it means interviewing all members of the 2012 Vikings in order to make sure that no one is singled out, then, you know, that’s what it takes.
COOPER: I read your article that you wrote, and I mean, it is very detailed. Have you been keeping notes all along about encounters you had with some of these coaches and things they specifically said?
KLUWE: I didn’t start keeping notes until April, like I said in the article, when they drafted a punter, and it was clear to me that my job was done with the Vikings because up until that point I was under the impression that I would still be playing for the Minnesota Vikings. I had done everything the coaches wanted me to do, my stats were the same as they’d always been. And I had no reason to think that they were letting me go. No one had ever said they were dissatisfied with my performance. But once they did draft a punter, I realized, OK, I need to — I need to get all this stuff down now while it’s fresh and make sure that I have it because this is a story I would like to tell later.
COOPER: The team has said categorically, look, this was just about your performance on the football field. Nothing about you speaking out. That the owner of the team at one point praised you for some of the things you were saying and your coach, according to you, seemed surprised by that, and said, well, I guess I’ve been overruled. To those who are hearing this maybe at home and say, look, you’re just — you’re just bitter you got fired and you’re coming up with this, this is just sour grapes, what do you say?
KLUWE: Well, I would say that I don’t have anything against the Vikings organization itself. I had eight wonderful years with the Minnesota Vikings. And it was really great to hear Zygi Wilf come up to me and proclaim his support. What I would say is I had a problem with three individual people within the Vikings and the fact remains is that I did everything my coaches wanted me to do consistently throughout those eight years. No one ever told me that I wasn’t doing what I was supposed to do. And the only thing that changed from year eight to when I got cut is I started speaking out on same-sex rights.
COOPER: The coach of your team when you did start speaking out, several times said to you, please stop doing this, and he quoted another coach who said, you know, something to the effect of, you know, a smart coach once told me, a player shouldn’t talk about politics and religion. Did — was there at any point where you felt, you know what, maybe I should just stop speaking out?
KLUWE: Well, that was — that was a decision that I made very early on when I first committed to working with Minnesotans for Marriage Equality is that whenever I do something, I’m going to do it to the utmost of my ability. I mean, if I commit, you’re getting 100 percent of what I have. And so that meant that if I was going to speak out in favor of same-sex rights, then, you know, I wasn’t going to back down. I’m going to take this all the way, which means treating people the right way, and so when it came to my head coach saying, hey, you need to stop speaking out about this, I said, well, no, that’s not the right thing to do. You know, we are all American citizens, we all deserve the right to live our own lives free of oppression, and this is something that I think is important. This is something that I think needs to be addressed.
COOPER: Is it possible that what they were annoyed about wasn’t necessarily the topic you were speaking out on, on same-sex marriage, but on the fact that you were speaking out, that you were getting attention, that some — maybe they felt it was overshadowing what the team was doing or overshadowing other players on the team? I mean, you don’t see a lot of NFL players speaking out on a lot of issues.
KLUWE: Yes, I mean, it’s possible they felt, yes, maybe we don’t want our punter to be known in the media, but again, like I said, this — I felt that this was a cause worth speaking out on, and I think for the people who like to make the — you’re causing a distraction argument, a lot of sports pundits picked the Minnesota Vikings to have no more than five wins that year, and we ended up going 10-6 and going to the playoffs, so, you know, if that was a distraction, well, then, it obviously affected the team in a good way.
COOPER: Would you consider some sort of legal action against the team if you feel you were fired unfairly?
KLUWE: I’m hoping to avoid that, because like I said I really don’t have any qualms with the Vikings organization as a whole. This really is between me and three specific individuals, and I’m very encouraged by the Vikings opening an independent investigation with these two individuals because they have a good track record of getting to the truth and getting to it the right way. So, you know, legal option isn’t off the table, but it is definitely an option I would prefer to avoid because I still have friends in that franchise. I know a lot of people there, and really I’m just hoping to get this over with as soon as possible and get the right thing done.
COOPER: Do you think you’ll be able to play again somewhere else? Do you think another team will have you? I mean, it’s one thing to speak out, it’s another thing to write this article saying your former coach is a coward and the special coordinating coach is a bigot?
KLUWE: Yes, that pretty much threw the stick of dynamite on that bridge. But — no, I think my time in the NFL is done. I mean, you can’t write an article like that and expect to play again. And really, that’s also why I’m going to insist on anonymity for the players, you know, to — who witnessed this. It’s because it’s very much this could affect their careers, if you become known as a player that ratted on another player or ratted on a coach, then that affects your future employment. I mean, the Jonathan Martin case is an excellent example of that, and that Jonathan Martin may not play in the NFL again. Not through anything he did, but just from the fact that he potentially broke the locker room code of silence, so to speak.
COOPER: Well, Chris, listen, I wish you the best, and I appreciate you coming on tonight. Thank you.
KLUWE: Yes. No problem. Thank you for having me on.
COOPER: We’ll obviously continue to follow what happens to Chris Kluwe.