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Chris Kluwe claims he was fired for his marriage support

Timothy Kincaid

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.

Comments

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Bose in St. Peter MN
January 3rd, 2014 | LINK

Of course, note the non-denial denial.

Priefer denies general “allegations,” protests that he does not discriminate (which Kluwe never alleged), he has created an “accepting environment” (a fuzzy thing in an industry which has often acknowledged hazing), has “looked to” support his players (an aspiration).

Frosting the cake, he blames Kluwe for hurting his children. Note to Priefer: This is the exactly when parents can model standing tall amid adversity, that the grown-up thing is to address difficult allegations calmly and directly.

Never does Priefer deny making anti-gay slurs or put his interactions with Kluwe in the context of multiple requests to “shut up.”

Priya Lynn
January 3rd, 2014 | LINK

The vikings were obviously disingenous when they said “We will thoroughly review this matter,” as they also stated they had already come to the solid conclusion that “Any notion that Chris was released from our football team due to his stance on marriage equality is entirely inaccurate”.

Priya Lynn
January 3rd, 2014 | LINK

” the management also stated that they take his allegations “very seriously and will thoroughly review this matter” – obviously not, they’ve stated they’re not open to accepting that Kluwe was fired for anything other than his football performance.

Priya Lynn
January 3rd, 2014 | LINK

Should have posted this in full at the start:
“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.”

Sir Andrew
January 3rd, 2014 | LINK

Haven’t we heard this all before in an earlier time?

“I’m not racist. Some of my best friends are ni–black. I just think that…”

I have no reason to doubt Chris’ report of events; it has the ring of truth about it. There were several teammates with him at the time, so several witnesses. Let’s hear what they have to say.

Nathaniel
January 3rd, 2014 | LINK

I’m not sure what Kluwe’s motives in the matter are now either. I applaud the non-committal answer he gave originally because of its honesty, but wonder why he didn’t feel the need to share the series of events then. As PL pointed out, it seems the Vikings have already reached their conclusion on the matter. It also doesn’t seem likely that this will get Kluwe his old job or a position on a new team; by his own admission, even if the real motivation was his support of equality, he was set up to look less than stellar so that his record might justify a firing.

One thing that does stand out to me is the timing of this so closely after certain incidents regarding certain persons on a certain reality show on a certain cable network for certain bigoted (both homophobic and racist) comments. Is Kluwe presenting a contrast of the pro-equality person fired for their views, but for whom no one raises a big stink? Is he asking where the outcries of “free speech” are for himself? Don’t get me wrong; his statements have the scent of truth lacking from the response of his former coach. However, his timing seems a bit odd, and his goals just as mysterious as the circumstances of his firing.

Nathaniel
January 3rd, 2014 | LINK

On the other hand, challenging a man poised to improve his position (and therefore his influence over others) seems like a laudable goal, even if Kluwe himself gains nothing from it.

Ian Charles
January 3rd, 2014 | LINK

Will Sarah Palin come to Chris’s defence? After all, he was fired for speaking his mind…

Neil
January 3rd, 2014 | LINK

No, Ian, it’s a certainty that Palin will not come to Kluwe’s defence, or Martin Bashir’s for that matter. Nor will she defend Ellen Degeneres against calls to have JC Penny dump her as a brand ambassador. Nor will she speak out in defence of teachers sacked by schools just for being gay. Nor will she condemn Russia for passing laws banning gays from publicly advocating for themselves.

Sarah Palin will not oppose calls by FRC and NOM to boycott companies that support marriage equality, but she will come forward to defend Chick-fil-A against any campaign for a boycott due to that company’s stance on the issue.

It’s not about reason or rationality or logic or free speech. It’s just about which side you’re on. If you’re anti-gay, you get the gold standard fundamental right to speak without consequence or even rebuttal on any platform you choose. Otherwise, you’re fair game for boycotts, condemnation and dismissal because you’re assumed to be wrong, and therefore don’t qualify for the gold standard level of free speech.

Marcus
January 4th, 2014 | LINK

http://www.usatoday.com/story/sports/nfl/vikings/2014/01/03/chris-kluwe-minnesota-vikings-football-homophobic-allegations-mike-priefer/4312785/

Tom Pelissero of USA Today just utilized his interview with Chris Kluwe to, among other things,

- accuse Kluwe of making it all about himself (yeah, and if he had cited other players’ experiences, you’d never call him a liar for not producing their sworn testimonies, right?)

- opine that having a job puts the kibosh on supporting equality on your own time because you’re “subject to a different set of rules” when you’re employed

- categorize Priefer’s bigotry as “locker room” culture, what “you wouldn’t say to your mother”

- call the implication that bigotry could have anything at all to do with Kluwe’s firing a “convienient oversimplification” (while “It couldn’t POSSIBLY be bigotry” is Pelissero’s idea of a nuanced position)

- berate Kluwe for being so “petty” as to “try to ruin [Priefer's] life” by “paint[ing him] as a homophobe” by quoting the words Priefer said.

Jesus.

Richard
January 4th, 2014 | LINK

@ Marcus. The response by Kluwe regarding Priefer’s career is the best response. Honestly, who gives a flying F*@k that Priefer’s career is ruined. Kluwe did not ruin it. Priefer ruined it by being such as poor excuse of a human being – simple! Chris deserves all of our support as he has stood by our Community and has taken the “bullet” for it.

mattnyc
January 4th, 2014 | LINK

I think that Kluwe waited until now because he was hoping to get another punting job in the NFL. I have no less respect for him for waiting until now. One does not burn bridges in a profession with limited careers, opportunities (are there only 32 positions in YOUR field?), and fickle bosses.

He no longer has anything to lose and I hope he continues to speak out.

Marcus
January 4th, 2014 | LINK

@Richard: Word.

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