Chris Kluwe was a punter for the Minnesota Vikings until he was cut last spring. You may remember him not just for his play on the gridiron but for the fact that he spoke out eloquently and spicily for marriage equality. He believes he was let go for that reason. He explains why in an article in Deadspin titled I Was An NFL Player Until I Was Fired By Two Cowards And A Bigot.
Hello. My name is Chris Kluwe, and for eight years I was the punter for the Minnesota Vikings. In May 2013, the Vikings released me from the team. At the time, quite a few people asked me if I thought it was because of my recent activism for same-sex marriage rights, and I was very careful in how I answered the question. My answer, verbatim, was always, “I honestly don’t know, because I’m not in those meetings with the coaches and administrative people.”
This is a true answer. I honestly don’t know if my activism was the reason I got fired.
However, I’m pretty confident it was.
He then details the reactions from the coaching staff and the ownership of the team as well as his teammates, including the homophobic slurs thrown at him by one of the coaches, Mike Priefer, couched (of course) in biblical imprecations, and the cowardice of Head Coach Leslie Frazier. In the end, he was replaced by a younger and lower-paid player.
…it’s clear to me that no matter how much I want to prove I can play, I will no longer punt in the NFL, especially now that I’ve written this account. Whether it’s my age, my minimum veteran salary, my habit of speaking my mind, or (most likely) a combination of all three, my time as a football player is done. Punters are always replaceable, at least in the minds of those in charge, and I realize that in advocating noisily for social change I only made it easier for them to justify not having me around. So it goes.
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.
Thank you for taking the time to read my story. Never be afraid to do what’s right. If no one ever says anything, nothing ever changes.
Obviously I’ve never played in the NFL and I don’t know anyone who does. I know that there have been rumors for years about the number of gay players in the league, and several of them have come out after they’ve retired, but there’s no openly gay active player. After all, who wants the first line of their obituary to read “He was the first openly gay active player in the NFL”? And look what happens to a straight player who rattles the cages.
To say the entire league is homophobic is a gross generalization and unfair to the many people who work in the league who are gay friendly or LGBT. But clearly there’s a problem with it at a level beyond the usual hazing and antics that goes on in the locker room or on the field.
Oh, and I’m sure that Mr. Kluwe has the support of the same fighters for freedom of speech that stood up for the outspoken folks on Duck Dynasty. Over to you, Ms. Palin.