3 min

Chris Kluwe ‘pretty confident’ he was fired because of activism

Former Minnesota Vikings punter alleges coach often made homophobic comments

Former Minnesota Vikings punter Chris Kluwe says he's "pretty confident" that he was fired from the team because of his activism in support of gay marriage. Credit:

In an op-ed piece on the website Deadspin, former Minnesota Vikings punter Chris Kluwe says that he doesn't know if his activism in support of gay marriage was the reason for his dismissal from the NFL team but he's "pretty confident it was."

Kluwe's piece, entitled "I Was an NFL Player Until I Was Fired by Two Cowards and a Bigot," presents the football player's recollection of his encounters with Vikings' ownership and coaching staff as he began throwing his support behind the organization Minnesotans for Marriage Equality and after he wrote a blistering letter to a Maryland politician lambasting him for trying to silence former Baltimore Ravens linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo for his support of gay marriage.

Kluwe, who was let go by the Vikings in May 2013, writes about the apparent mixed messages he received from the organization. He says that while the team's legal department cleared him to speak about the issue "as a private citizen" and team owner Zygi Wilf at one point "shook my hand" and encouraged him to continue speaking out in favour of gay marriage, Kluwe alleges that team coach Leslie Frazier told him to "stop speaking out on this stuff."

Kluwe makes particularly pointed accusations against special-teams coordinator Mike Priefer, alleging that throughout the months of September, October and November 2012, Priefer used "homophobic language in his presence."
Kluwe writes, "He had not done so during minicamps or fall camp that year, nor had he done so during the 2011 season. He would ask me if I had written any letters defending 'the gays' recently and denounce as disgusting the idea that two men would kiss, and he would constantly belittle or demean any idea of acceptance or tolerance."
Kluwe also alleges that Priefer told him on several occasions he'd "wind up burning in hell with the gays, and that the only truth was Jesus Christ and the Bible."
Kluwe says he thought the situation would cool down after Minnesota voters gave the thumbs-down to a proposed constitutional amendment that would have banned gay marriage in the state, but he alleges that Priefer's attitude worsened. Recalling a specialist meeting in which he was joking around with other players about his activism, Kluwe says Priefer said, "We should round up all the gays, send them to an island, and then nuke it until it glows."
Kluwe says that their relationship continued to deteriorate and that at the end of the season he was told the Vikings would be "exploring options for competition."
He was released from the team in May.
"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," Kluwe alleges.

He concludes, "Some will ask if the NFL has a problem with institutionalized homophobia. I don't think it does. I think there are homophobic people in the NFL, in all positions, but that's true for society as well, and those people eventually get replaced. All we can do is try to expose their behavior when we see it and call them to account for their actions."

In response to Kluwe's op-ed, the Vikings released a statement saying Kluwe was released from the team because of his performance, not because of his stance on same-sex marriage.

The statement says the organization takes what their former punter says "very seriously" and plans to "thoroughly review this matter."