Kluwe & Ayanbadejo weren't cut for LGBT advocacy
NFL teams make decisions based on performance, wins and the salary cap, not whether someone supports gay people.
When the Minnesota Vikings released their 29-page summary report regarding the independent investigation into anti-gay allegations made by Chris Kluwe, Kluwe responded by saying he would march forward with a $10 million lawsuit against his former team. Kluwe wants the team to release their full 150-page investigative report, while the team just doesn't want to do anything that could possibly make Kluwe happy.
This no longer feels like a battle over gay rights. Instead, it resembles a mutual pissing contest between a jilted punter and his frustrated former team. The two sides have dug in their heels and they're not backing down.
It has to be noted that Kluwe has done a ton for the LGBT community. His activism in 2012 helped lead to sweeping victories for same-sex marriage at the ballot box. His legacy in our community will be one of a strong contributor, someone who helped move the national discussion in a powerful way.
Yet the real issue at hand here - whether the Vikings are an inherently homophobic institution that fires people because they support gay rights - is being lost, replaced by public barbs and accusations meant to hurt the other party, not help gay athletes.
For the most part, the Minnesota Vikings can clear this all up by simply releasing the full report. The Miami Dolphins released the Wells Report, which made the team look downright incompetent in handling locker room issues. The Vikings have no reasonable excuse to withhold the full report. Everyone - and particularly Kluwe - should have the ability to see exactly what the findings were. Until the Vikings release the report, most of the public will assume the worst of the team. I know I will.
There are also issues raised in the summary that leave glaring unanswered questions. For example, the report summary says kicker Ryan Longwell was used as a go-between to get Kluwe to "calm down." Except, Longwell was released by the Vikings in May of 2012, four months before Kluwe penned his now-famous letter to anti-gay legislator Emmett C. Burns and became a pin-up boy for gay rights. We should be able to look at the full report to see what exactly Longwell said and why the summary makes it seem he was on the team at the height of the controversy.
The Vikings should also make steps to undo some of the damage done here. It's clear from the report summary that at least one coach said he wanted to kill all the gays. Whether it was said "in jest" or not... it wasn't funny. Bringing in Wade Davis to talk with the team, as they've done, is a good start. Donating money to LGBT causes, particularly in Minnesota and in sports, could help offset some of the damage (Kluwe has said any money he wins in the case will go to LGBT causes). The LGBT Sports Coalition has many members that would make incredible use of any donations, including the National Center for Lesbian Rights, which is helping Kluwe in his case..
Kluwe told me he won't stop fighting until the Vikings make "sweeping institutional changes." So, Vikings, make the changes and make them public. Tell us what you're doing to ensure a positive workplace for gay athletes. It's the right thing to do. Thankfully the NFL is forcing the Vikings (and every team in the league) to improve its workplace environment.
For Kluwe's part, I'm starting to think the longer this drags out the worse he looks, and the worse the LGBT sports movement suffers.
Kluwe's two big contentions were 1) that he was cut by the Vikings because of his activism on behalf of same-sex marriage and 2) that the culture on the Vikings team was anti-gay and in desperate need of salvation.
The report summary released by the Vikings reflects what many people in football have said over the last six months: Kluwe was expensive ($1 million more than his replacement on the Vikings, Jeff Locke), getting older (seven years older than Locke), was never a top punter in the NFL and simply wasn't that good in his final season (he ranked in the bottom half of the NFL in punting average and fair catches, and in the bottom 10% in pins within the 20-yard-line and season-long punt). Also, his hang-time - a critical stat for punters - was atrocious.
Kluwe told me via phone Sunday night that the less-than-stellar numbers were because of game-time instruction by the coaching staff - that he was told to punt right, keep the punts low and go for distance (though again, his distance wasn't very good in comparison to other NFL punters). Yet Locke's numbers in his rookie season - for the same coaching staff - were nearly identical to, and in some places better than, Kluwe's 2012 numbers - all of that for $1 million less and seven more years of youth.
Further complicating the matter is the report's chronicling of Kluwe's poor performance in games played outside. The Vikings are moving to an outdoor stadium this season.
From a football perspective, the Vikings made a good decision replacing Kluwe last season. They saved money, got a younger player and are planning for the future.
If there were five reasons Kluwe was cut from the Vikings, numbers one, two and three were performance, age and cost, not his activism or his support for same-sex marriage.
Then there's Kluwe's assertion that the culture of the Vikings team creates a hostile working environment based on sexual orientation. It should be noted here that Kluwe is straight. He has a lovely wife and two daughters - I've never heard him or anyone else claim anyone on the Vikings attacked his sexual orientation. Kluwe claims his support of other people's sexual orientation was the target here.
Kluwe has told me in the past that he never heard anti-gay language from players. Rather, the only time he heard it was from special teams coach Mike Priefer, and it was rare even from him. The "nuke the gays" comment was an outlier, even if Priefer was not a big fan of Kluwe spending so much time with his "activism" (Priefer has publicly expressed frustration not just with Kluwe's "gay" advocacy, but also other issues like the induction of Ray Guy into the Hall of Fame).
The report makes it clear that Priefer said what Kluwe claims - and the Vikings responded with a three-game suspension of the coach (Kluwe had wanted at least four games). The report also seems to reflect what Kluwe has told me in the past, that anti-gay comments were not common and didn't reflect the culture of the team. To help continue toward a path of inclusion, the Vikings have brought in Wade Davis to talk with the team.
The deeply problematic piece here for Kluwe is the revelation in the summary that he made graphic, cruel jokes about the Penn State controversy in which boys were raped by a football coach.
Kluwe told me he was "making fun of an organization where there is blind fanaticism that would allow this kind of abuse to happen." That probably was his intent. Yet he directed it at one coach in particular and, again, was ultimately making jokes about a situation involving boys being raped.
You can't claim to be the victim of an insensitive culture when you are contributing to that culture yourself. The fact that Kluwe's teasing and jokes were directed at one person on the team, something he confirmed with me Sunday night, is particularly troubling.
Making matters worse, Kluwe took to Twitter over the weekend to toss out a few more grenades aimed at the Vikings, including the implication that Vikings players were having sex with underage girls.
Still, Kluwe is pushing forward with his $10 million lawsuit against the Vikings. At this point, it has little to do with whether the NFL is a safe place for gay athletes and has everything to do with the bad blood that has boiled over between the punter and his former team. Kluwe wants vindication for being cut, the Vikings don't want to give him an inch.
In the middle of all these guys trying to prove whose dick is bigger, the LGBT community and gay athletes are getting used like bargaining chips. I've heard from several LGBT leaders over the last few days that they just want this to go away. Kluwe looks bad, the Vikings look bad, and we look bad.
It's time for the parties to get into a room, whip out their dicks to see whose is bigger, settle the case and move on. I don't want the LGBT community dragged through this pissing contest anymore.