Chris Kluwe, the outspoken former punter for the Minnesota Vikings, has written a caustic post alleging that he was released from the NFL team in May by cowardly and bigoted management because of his very public support for gay marriage. In 2012, Kluwe made a very public campaign against a proposed amendment to the Minnesota constitution which would define marriage as being between one man and one woman. The amendment was eventually voted down.
Kluwe, 32, refers to three Vikings officials as being “two cowards” and “one bigot,” saying that the cowards are the Vikings general manager, Rick Spielman, and former coach Leslie Frazier, who both reportedly asked Chris Kluwe on multiple occasions to stop publicly supporting gay marriage. Kluwe refers to Mike Priefer, the Vikings special teams coach, as a bigot, claiming that on multiple occasions he made homophobic remarks in front of Kluwe during team meetings.
According to Kluwe, the owner of the Vikings, Zygi Wilf, supported his activism in favor of gay rights.
During his eight-season career with Minnesota, Kluwe set numerous punting records, but was released in May after the Vikings drafted a rookie punter in the 5th round, an usually high draft position for a punter. As a veteran, Chris Kluwe was set to make $1.45 million this season, which may have seemed too expensive for the Vikings, who were short on cash to start the season. Added to his rank of only 17th among NFL punters during his last season, perhaps the Vikings decided that the time had come to pursue other options.
Although he signed with the Oakland Raiders, he lost the job to a rookie punter. He unsuccessfully tried out for other teams, but has not played in the NFL since, and believes that his release from the Vikings came as a result of Priefer’s bigotry and disapproval of his public support of same-sex marriage as well as the cowardice showed by management in not standing up for the former punter.
He gives his motivation for coming forward with his story as an effort to “make sure that Mike Priefer never holds a coaching position again in the NFL, and ideally never coaches as any level.” After Monday’s firing of coach Leslie Frasier, Mike Priefer’s name has been mentioned in talks about who the next coach of the Vikings might be. Priefer, 47, has 2o years of special teams coaching experience in college and professional football, including stints with the Denver Broncos and the Kansas City Chiefs.
In a statement released on Thursday, the Vikings stated that they were reviewing the issue and that the accusations made by Kluwe are very serious. The Vikings claim that Kluwe was merely asked to be respectful while speaking on the issue of gay rights and that both owners and management of the team assured him that they would not interfere with his right to speak out on his beliefs. They state that Kluwe’s release was simply due to his performance as a punter.
In a statement, Priefer defended himself against Kluwe’s allegations, saying “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.”
By Thursday evening, Vikings players were defending management against Kluwe’s allegations of homophobia. Current kicker Blair Walsh released a statement in strong support of Priefer, saying “The allegations made today are reprehensible and totally not compatible with what Mike Priefer stands for.” Among players tweeting their support of Priefer today are safety Harrison Smith and fullback Jerome Felton.
As of Thursday evening, no players have stepped forward to corroborate the allegations made by Chris Kluwe, former punter for the Minnesota Vikings, who is claiming that the management of the team was cowardly and bigoted while he was there.
By Jennifer Pfalz