NEWS AND ISSUES, NFL, SPORTS

Chris Kluwe: ‘It’s a story that I think needs to be told’

January 7, 2014

His Deadspin tell-all still hot off the Internet presses, former Minnesota Vikings punter Chris Kluwe visited the SiriusXM New York City studios on Monday, stopping by the Michelangelo Signorile Show and the Morning Jolt with host Larry Flick.

In the Deadspin piece, Kluwe recalled his last year as an NFL player, after which he was released by Minnesota. According to Kluwe — who is known for his advocacy for LGBT rights — Vikings officials cut him because of his outspoken support of same-sex marriage.

Does Kluwe regret his actions? To him, in choosing between playing football and doing what’s right, the choice was obvious.

“When it comes to playing a children’s game versus hopefully making a difference in people’s lives and hopefully getting people rights that they were denied, that’s an easy choice for me to make,” Kluwe said. “If the positions were reversed, and I needed someone to speak out for me, even though it may cause them their job, then I would want them to do that because it’s the right thing to do.”

Kluwe singled out Vikings special teams coordinator Mike Priefer in the Deadspin editorial for anti-gay comments Priefer allegedly made. Prefier denied Kluwe’s accusations, and said he does not discriminate, he has gay family members whom he supports, and his reason for becoming a football coach was to make a positive impact in people’s lives.

Kluwe stuck by his story.

“If I’m lying, I’ve handed him probably the easiest defamation of character case ever to be heard in the court of U.S. law,” Kluwe said. “I’m 100 percent confident in what I’ve said is what happened.”

Backing up his claims, Kluwe pointed out that he has witnesses who promised to support him, and he can prove all of the events he detailed out in editorial.

“In the investigation I want to make super clear that it has to be complete anonymity for the witnesses because there is a very good chance that they will get blacklisted from the NFL,” Kluwe said.

After all this time, why is Kluwe speaking up now? He said it was mainly for two reasons: he did not want to create a distraction for his former teammates going into a season, and he was hoping to prove he was still physically capable of playing in the NFL in the interim. It looked like those hopes were going to come true in the preseason, but he was cut by the Oakland Raiders, Chicago Bears, Buffalo Bills and Cincinnati Bengals.

“If there’s not a place for me and I can still put it 45 yards outside the numbers with decent hang time, then there’s not going to be a place for me next year, because you don’t get more valuable as you age in the NFL,” Kluwe said.

Kluwe took his exit from the NFL in stride, though; what’s important to him is being able to speak up for those who have no voice.

“It’s a story I think that needs to be told,” Kluwe said. “Now that the season is over for the Vikings, now is the time to tell it.”

So why is Kluwe so invested in LGBT issues? To him, it’s just good human nature to care for others, no matter their sexual preferences.

“It’s just the way I was brought up by my parents. Treat other people the way you’d like to be treated, treat other people with empathy and dignity,” Kluwe said. “If I’m ever in a position where I want someone else to speak up for me, I have to speak out for others, otherwise it doesn’t make sense, otherwise I’m a hypocrite.”

Contrary to popular belief, this isn’t the first time Kluwe has written a thought-provoking essay. What’s so different about this editorial? He believes that it has ruffled people’s feathers not only because of the use of such terminology as “bigot” but primarily because most people don’t like to admit that these things happen in a “pure entertainment” institution like the NFL.

“They very much want it to be: this is our sterile, gladiators fighting on the field, we don’t have to worry about politics, we don’t have to worry about religion, just we’re going to tune our minds out and be entertained,” Kluwe said.

Breaking it down even further, Kluwe explains that the fear of homosexuals that is crippling the NFL stems from society itself. Sadly such things as racism and segregation still take place in this country. To the former NFL punter, it’s all a generational issue, one that unfortunately is here for the long term.

“These are viewpoints that generally once people have these viewpoints it is very hard for them to change their minds and generally the only thing that changes their minds is when they grow old and die,” Kluwe said. “The only thing you can do is wait. You can educate people as much as possible, you can foster an environment of tolerance and respect but certain people just never will get it and you can only wait.”

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