Former Minnesota Vikings punter Chris Kluwe said he believes he was cut by the team for his activism on behalf of same-sex marriage. He said his chief antagonist was special teams coach Mike Priefer, who Kluwe said repeatedly made homophobic comments.
In a lengthy article for Deadspin, "I Was An NFL Player Until I Was Fired By Two Cowards And A Bigot," Kluwe writes:
Near the end of November (2012), several teammates and I were walking into a specialist meeting with Coach Priefer. We were laughing over one of the recent articles I had written supporting same-sex marriage rights, and one of my teammates made a joking remark about me leading the Pride parade. As we sat down in our chairs, Mike Priefer, in one of the meanest voices I can ever recall hearing, said: "We should round up all the gays, send them to an island, and then nuke it until it glows." The room grew intensely quiet, and none of the players said a word for the rest of the meeting. The atmosphere was decidedly tense. I had never had an interaction that hostile with any of my teammates on this issue—some didn't agree with me, but our conversations were always civil and respectful. Afterward, several told me that what Mike Priefer had said was "messed up."
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Kluwe became well-known for his advocacy on behalf of Minnesotans for Equality, which helped defeat a 2012 anti-gay marriage ballot amendment in the state. His letter defending fellow NFL player Brendon Ayanbadejo for supporting same-sex marriage in Maryland went viral on the Internet. This is when Priefer became more aggressive in stating homophobic views, Kluwe writes:
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. I tried to laugh these off while also responding with the notion that perhaps they were human beings who deserved to be treated as human beings. Mike Priefer also said on multiple occasions that I would wind up burning in hell with the gays, and that the only truth was Jesus Christ and the Bible.
Update: In a statement, Priefer denied Kluwe's charges: Priefer says he does not "tolerate discrimination of any type and am respectful of all individuals. I personally have gay family members who I love and support just as I do any family member."
Kluwe punted for the Vikings for eight seasons until being cut this spring, and was cut this summer by the Oakland Raiders. At the time of being released by the Vikings, he was mum about the reasons for being cut, and it was widely assumed it was because the Vikings wanted to go with someone younger and cheaper. Not so, Kluwe writes:
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.
Leslie Frazier was the head coach until being fired this week and Spielman is the general manager. Kluwe criticizes Frazier for twice calling him into his office during the 2012 season and asking him to stop speaking out for gay marriage.
Frazier backed off, Kluwe writes, after this episode involving the team owner:
On Sept. 9, before our game against the Jacksonville Jaguars, the owner of the team, Zygi Wilf, came up to me, shook my hand, and told me: "Chris, I'm proud of what you've done. Please feel free to keep speaking out. I just came from my son's best friend's wedding to his partner in New York, and it was one of the most beautiful things I've ever seen."
After Kluwe was cut, Priefer said that "A lot of people like to write and report that he and I didn't get along. I have a lot of respect for Chris Kluwe. I think, based on what he's done in his career, as a man and as an athlete, and for anybody that stands up for what he believes in like Chris did, I have a lot of respect for guys like that." This is clearly a different picture than the one painted by Kluwe.
After reading Kluwe's Deadspin article, Brad Michael of Minnesotans for Equality issued this statement to Outsports:
As the person that asked him to get involved, I was deeply saddened to read the article. I have never met anyone with more integrity than Chris Kluwe. It is my opinion that he was the "game changer" in the election here and because of him the Marriage Amendment was defeated. I truly feel bad that he had to go through all of that with the Vikings organization – but again it shows you what kind of a person he is. If what he says is true, and I absolutely believe him – the Vikings need to address this issue and make some changes. He left the State of Minnesota a much better place than he left the Vikings organization.
You need to read the whole Deadspin article, since Kluwe lays out the story in a very detailed way. The Vikings and the NFL need to investigate Priefer for his incendiary homophobic remarks. If substantiated (Kluwe says there were numerous witnesses), he needs to be fired. No one wishing for an entire class of people to be nuked until they glow is fit to hold any job where he supervises people. His views clearly violate any rules and norms in an American workplace in 2014.
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