Chris Kluwe claims he was fired for his marriage support
January 3rd, 2014
In 2012, Minnesota was in the midst of a battle over whether to amend the state constitution to ban same-sex marriage. One of the more visible (and definitely most colorful) allies for equality was Minnesota Vikings punter Chris Kluwe.
Eventually the voters of Minnesota rejected the amendment and the legislature passed a bill legalizing same-sex marriage. But things did not go as well for Kluwe, who was fired from the team.
At the time, Kluwe gave a non-committal response as to the reason why he was let go at the height of his career. But now – having accepted that it is unlikely that he will play again for the NFL – Kluwe is claiming that he was probably fired for his pro-gay activism.
Writing for Buzzfeed, the former player gives praise to Vikings owner Zygi Wilf, who thanked him for his advocacy, but blames his firing on “a bigot and two cowards”. He chastises Vikings Head Coach Leslie Frazier (himself fired this week) and General Manager Rick Spielman for lacking the backbone to stand up for decency, but the real blame he saves for Special Teams Coordinator Mike Priefer.
The most incendiary claim is this:
Near the end of November, 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 Vikings issued a statement that Kluwe was “released strictly based on his football performance”. I can’t judge that position, but the response from those who follow the sport closely seems mixed in their response.
But the management also stated that they take his allegations “very seriously and will thoroughly review this matter”. And, indeed, they should. For while many football fans may not be supporters of marriage equality, few would be comfortable with the raw hatred that was reflected in Priefer’s alleged outburst.
Priefer has denied the incident, using the “I have gay family members” defense.
I vehemently deny today’s allegations made by Chris Kluwe.
I want to be clear that I do 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.
The primary reason I entered coaching was to affect people in a positive way. As a coach, I have always created an accepting environment for my players, including Chris, and have looked to support them both on and off the field.
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.
I will continue to work hard for the Minnesota Vikings, the Wilf family and all of our loyal fans.
This variation of the “some of my best friends” defense has all the believability of Sarah Palin’s similar claim. While I have no idea as to the facts of the matter, this has several flaws that raise red flags.
People who really have gay friends whom they support say, “I love my gay friends!” Those who hold animus say “I love gay people just like I love all people!” Priefer loves his gay family members just like he does “any family member”.
And I’m not sure why the appeal to ‘look at me, I’m a hetero with a wife and kids’ was thrown in there. But one possible reason for the inclusion of “protective” is a warning to the media that he will go on attack if they look too closely at his family. Before his son, Mike Priefer, Jr., made his Twitter account private, one blogger found that he had sent dozens of tweets which reflect a hostile attitude towards gay people.
A few Vikings players (mostly newer players including Kluwe’s replacement) have rallied around Priefer, who is hoping to replace Frazier as Head Coach. But so far (as best I can find), no one who was on the team at the time has categorically denied that Priefer said the things that Kluwe asserts.
It will be interesting to see how this plays out. But the Vikings ownership and management will have to tread carefully.
At the moment, Priefer’s statement doesn’t pass the smell test. Kluwe is too detailed in his dates and places and comes across as credible while Priefer’s bigoted comments, should they be confirmed, are beyond social acceptance in Minnesota. Should the Vikings promote Priefer, they will invite controversy and a negative association with the team in an industry which relies heavily on community goodwill.