Former Minnesota Vikings punter Chris Kluwe has never had a problem speaking his mind. He has staunchly supported same-sex marriage, going so far as to lend his support to defeat a Minnesota state amendment that would have changed marriage laws to specifically define marriage as between a man and a woman.
Voters in the state soundly rejected the amendment, and the state legislature approved same-sex marriage in Minnesota this past spring.
But that wasn’t what got Kluwe released from his contract with the Vikings. It simply boiled down to performance.
Kluwe released a rambling statement through Deadspin that totaled nearly 4,000 words. In the statement, he accused the Vikings of releasing him from his contract last April because of his outspoken views on same-sex marriage.
The title of the article— I Was An NFL Player Until I Was Fired By Two Cowards And A Bigot—certainly provided a spark.
“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. (Frazier was fired on Monday, at the conclusion of a 5-10-1 season.) One of the main coaching points I've heard throughout my entire life is, "How you respond to difficult situations defines your character," and I think it's a good saying. I also think it applies to more than just the players.”
Priefer is the Vikings special teams coordinator. Kluwe also said that Priefer reportedly said during a team meeting that "we should round up all the gays, send them to an island and nuke it until it glows."
Frazier has declined to comment, but Prief was quick to respond, denying Kluwe’s allegations in a statement on Thursday.
"I want to be clear that I do not tolerate discrimination of any type and am respectful of all individuals," Priefer said. "I personally have gay family members who I love and support just as I do any family member. ... The comments today have not only attacked my character and insulted my professionalism, but they have also impacted my family. While my career focus is to be a great professional football coach, my number one priority has always been to be a protective husband and father to my wife and children.”
The Vikings also released a statement, saying that his views on same-sex marriage had nothing to do with his release.
"The team has long respected our players' and associates' individual rights, and, as Chris specifically stated, Vikings ownership supports and promotes tolerance, including on the subject of marriage equality," the statement read. "Because he was identified with the Vikings, Chris was asked to be respectful while expressing his opinions. Team ownership and management also repeatedly emphasized to Chris that the Vikings would not impinge on his right to express his views.
"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."
Kluwe is certainly an outspoken man who is not afraid to air his views on various topics. However, he completely fails to understand the business of football.
He was released because he was 31 years old and failed to perform up to expectations in the 2012 season. The Vikings made it clear to Kluwe that he was going to have competition as well.
In addition, it’s tough to hold on to a player in a non-priority position who goes against what he was asked to do by the Vikings. They simply wanted him to tone down his message, plain and simple. He refused, and they have every right to release him according to NFL policy.
There’s no controversy here. The Vikings did nothing wrong in releasing Kluwe. This is a case of sour grapes, and Kluwe looking for excuses as to why he’s no longer employed in the NFL.