We’re big fans of Chris Kluwe, because he wrote a book called “Beautifully Unique Sparkleponies,” and if that doesn’t tell you everything you need to know about Chris Kluwe, here’s more: He’s a staunch defender of human rights, particularly as they pertain to the gay community, and he was a good punter for the Vikings for eight seasons. He was outspoken about his views on gay marriage and other hot-button issues until he was cut before the 2013 season.
Kluwe didn’t play at all this season, and doesn’t expect to be signed by another NFL team, effectively ending his career. Why didn’t Kluwe, a perfectly good punter and by all accounts a consummate professional, get another chance? Why, even, was he cut by the Vikings in the first place? According to an essay Kluwe wrote for Deadspin, published today, he was cut because (now former) head coach Leslie Frazier and GM Rick Spielman are cowards, and assistant coach Mike Priefer is a bigot.
The essay — which documents Kluwe’s 2012 season and months leading up his eventual release — just destroys the Vikings organization, which appeared to be completely at odds with itself over how to handle Kluwe’s public stands against bigotry. Some of the most damming passages include:
-Coach Priefer’s startlingly grotesque views on homosexuality:
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.
-Coach Frazier’s hypocrisy and cowardice:
Coach Frazier immediately told me that I “needed to be quiet, and stop speaking out on this stuff” (referring to my support for same-sex marriage rights). I told Coach Frazier that I felt it was the right thing to do (what with supporting equality and all), and I also told him that one of his main coaching points to us was to be “good men” and to “do the right thing.” He reiterated his fervent desire for me to cease speaking on the subject, stating that “a wise coach once told me there are two things you don’t talk about in the NFL, politics and religion.” I repeated my stance that this was the right thing to do, that equality is not something to be denied anyone, and that I would not promise to cease speaking out. At that point, Coach Frazier told me in a flat voice, “If that’s what you feel you have to do,” and the meeting ended. The atmosphere was tense as I left the room.
-The team’s apparent sabotaging of Kluwe’s punting numbers:
I had also been repeatedly instructed by Mike Priefer to dial back the distance of my kicks to give our coverage team a better chance at getting down the field, a request I did my best to follow despite knowing it would mean sacrificing my own averages and allowing people to fashion an argument against me based on those numbers. His exact words were: “Chris, we need you to kick it higher and shorter, because our coverage team sucks… In November and December, I was frequently marked for negative scores by Mike Priefer on our “Production Point” sheet for punts that earlier had been marked positive, despite the numbers being almost exactly the same in terms of hangtime and distance.
-And as for why he waited to tell this story:
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. (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.
The whole article is worth a read, as it gives an unmatched perspective on what it’s like to get your job taken out from under you in the NFL. Of course, now we have to wait for the response articles from Frazier, Spielman and/or Priefer to get the full story, but something tells us those aren’t in the pipeline.
We agree now that Kluwe’s chances of getting another NFL job are slim, but we hope his storytelling ability will get him a new job quickly. Chris! Give us a call!
Photo via Getty