Former Minnesota Vikings punter Chris Kluwe went from virtual unknown player to a widely praised human rights activist last year when he began speaking out for marriage equality and LGBT rights. Many seemed to embrace Kluwe for his pro-gay stance but appeared that his own team had quietly dismissed him for his activism when they let him go last May. At the time, Kluwe claimed that he was unsure why he was dropped from the team but now he’s saying that he was indeed dropped for being an LGBT ally.
Yesterday, Kluwe posted a candid and incendiary screed on Deadspin claiming that top members of the staff of the Minnesota Vikings fired him for promoting same-sex marriage.
Kluwe says his troubles with the team began in 2012 when he first teamed up with the LGBT rights group Minnesotans for Marriage Equality (which he says the team approved of) to defeat the Minnesota Gay Marriage Amendment, which would’ve outlawed same-sex marriage but was eventually defeated by voters.
Kluwe went on to write a scathing open letter to Maryland state delegate Emmett Burns, claiming the politician was spewing “vitriolic hatred and bigotry” after he chastised former Baltimore Ravens player Brendon Ayanbadejo for speaking for marriage equality as well.
Kluwe claims that then-Vikings Head Coach Leslie Frazier (who was fired on Monday) approached him the day after his letter was published and asked him, “to be quiet and stop speaking out on this stuff.” Kluwe refused Frazier’s suggestions, but over the next several months he was approached by Frazier and the team’s general manager Rick Spielman and asked to stop speaking out for gay rights.
Things became even more intense when Special-Teams Coordinator Mike Priefer began to criticize Kluwe for his pro-gay stance, unfairly ridiculed his field performance and used harshly homophobic statements around him and the team.
“We should round up all the gays, send them to an island, and then nuke it until it glows,” Kluwe quotes Priefer as saying at a November team meeting.
Kluwe claims that things continued to go downhill from there and he was cut from the team in May.
At the time he was diplomatic about it, saying he wasn’t sure why he was cut. Now, he says he’s quite sure that his activism got him cut.
“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, both of whom knew I was a good punter and would remain a good punter for the foreseeable future, as my numbers over my eight-year career had shown, but who lacked the fortitude to disagree with Mike Priefer on a touchy subject matter,” he said.
However, the Vikings have since responded to Kluwe’s claims and said they’ll review his firing.
“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,” said the Vikings in a statement. – nicholas robinson