By Ruth Conniff
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Ex-Minnesota Viking Chris Kluwe says he's "pretty confident" he lost his punter job with the Vikings because he spoke out for gay rights.
"This is a story about how actions have consequences, no matter how just or moral you think your cause happens to be, and it's a story about the price people all too often pay for speaking out," he writes in a first-person piece posted on Deadspin.com.
In 2012, Minnesotans for Marriage Equality asked Kluwe if he would be interested in helping defeat anti-gay marriage legislation which would've defined marriage as "only a union of one man and one woman." The amendment was voted down, and same-sex marriage is now legal in Minnesota.
Kluwe says he got the OK from the team's legal department before starting his activism. He also says that owner Zygi Wilf was supportive.
But he didn't get the OK from coach Leslie Frazier. After Kluwe wrote a letter defending gay rights, the coach called him into his office after practice.
"Once inside, Coach Frazier immediately told me that I 'needed to be quiet, and stop speaking out on this stuff' (referring to my support for same-sex marriage rights)," Kluwe explains. "I told Coach Frazier that I felt it was the right thing to do (what with supporting equality and all), and I also told him that one of his main coaching points to us was to be 'good men' and to 'do the right thing.' He reiterated his fervent desire for me to cease speaking on the subject, stating that 'a wise coach once told me there are two things you don't talk about in the NFL, politics and religion.'"
To any avid sports fan, that last line is just laughable. Coaches and players trot out Jesus all the time and it's perfectly acceptable. Remember Tim Tebow's posturing?
Or what about in 2006, when the Chicago Bears faced the Indianapolis Colts in the Super Bowl? Much was made about the fact that both teams had black coaches. During a television interview, Bears head coach Lovie Smith downplayed the significance of this and said the important thing was that they were both Christian coaches. Nothing bad happened to Smith for saying that.
A year ago, Kluwe was on "The Colbert Report," and used the opportunity to speak out for gay rights. I remember being shocked at his candor, and then wondering how he was he going to keep his job.
Well, now we know. He couldn't.
"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," Kluwe concludes. "One of the main coaching points I've heard throughout my entire life is, 'How you respond to difficult situations defines your character,' and I think it's a good saying. I also think it applies to more than just the players."
Photo: Flickr user Bill Bielawa, creative commons licensed.