The position coach for Minnesota Vikings punter Chris Kluwe wants his player to focus more on punting and less on activism. Kluwe is a very outspoken supporter of gay rights and also made news when he was fined for altering his jersey last Sunday to support the Hall of Fame candidacy of former punter Ray Guy. Kluwe is taking a zen approach and will let happen what will happen.
“Those distractions are getting old for me, to be quite honest with you," coach Mike Priefer told the Associated Press. "Do I think Ray Guy deserves to be in the Hall of Fame? Absolutely. But there's other ways of going about doing it, in my opinion. To me, it's getting old. He's got to focus on punting and holding [for field goals and extra points].”
Kluwe ranks in the middle or below in punting categories like net average, average and punts inside the 20. But AP notes: "The timing of Priefer's comments seem a little odd, given that Kluwe is coming off a stellar performance in a victory over the Chicago Bears. Facing dangerous returner Devin Hester, he averaged 45.7 yards on seven punts and twice pinned the Bears inside the 5-yard line." The Vikings won, 21-14.
Priefer was backed up by head coach Leslie Frazier who said: "We've had some conversations, Chris and I. Right now he knows the focus has to be on the St. Louis Rams. He's assured me that's where his focus is and we just have to keep moving forward.”
Kluwe seems unfazed by it all, telling the AP via email:
“All I can do is go out and punt to the best of my ability each game, and that's how I've always approached things. If the team ever wants to replace me, they will; I'm under no delusions as to how this business operates. We all get cut eventually.”
Kluwe will make $1.3 million in base salary this season and that is set to go up to $1.4 million next year. Teams will often cut punters and kickers if they think they can get a cheaper player who is as good or better. The highest paid punter, Oakland's Shane Lechler, will make $3.8 million, with the NFL base salary for punters being an average of $868,005.
I am not surprised by Priefer's reaction since coaches do nothing but live and breathe football and expect their players to the same, no matter how dumb or counterproductive it is. It seems as if Kluwe's very public gay rights stance (he has been everywhere in the media) is not as much an issue as the Ray Guy controversy, since the latter happened during a game. Kluwe was fined $5,250 for violating the NFL's uniform policy when he wore a note saying "Vote Ray Guy" on top of his jersey patch. "I knew the potential consequences going in," Kluwe said on Twitter. "Don't cry for me Argentina."
Don't expect Kluwe to be stifled, though I think he will strive to keep football and his other interests separate. On the day Priefer was giving his quotes to AP, Kluwe appeared with me on a taping of ESPN's "Outside The Lines" to discuss gay issues in football.
Update: I wrote "zen" in my lead before I had seen these awesome tweets Kluwe made to the news:
“I want you all to know that I just meditated for 5 hours in the lotus position, solely contemplating football. I feel spiritually cleansed.”
“Unfortunately I now appear to be stuck and cannot move my legs. I might be downgraded to questionable for the game Sunday. Please send help.”