In a scathing new article published at Deadspin, Chris Kluwe, the former punter for the NFL's Minnesota Vikings, says he's "pretty confident" that he was booted from the team after taking a very public stand in support of marriage equality.
The lengthy article includes an in-depth, first-person account of the behind-the-scenes conversations that took place after Kluwe first gained notoriety, while playing for the Vikings last season, when he wrote a pointed letter (remember the "lustful cockmonster" reference?) to a Maryland state representative who opposed marriage equality. Then he was cut and replaced with fifth-round draft selection Jeff Locke. Minnesota's governor, Mark Dayton, complained publicly, saying, "I just think sports officials ought to be honest about what the heck is going on."
It seems Kluwe agrees with Dayton, publishing the article today with the unapologetic title "I Was an NFL Player Until I Was Fired by Two Cowards and a Bigot." It's quite a revealing essay and definitely burns bridges, and Kluwe sets the record straight from his perspective. He says Vikings special teams coordinator Mike Priefer frequently used homophobic slurs when berating him in the locker room, an aggressive tactic that Kluwe says intensified along with the punter's continued outspoken support for LGBT equality, and he also calls out former coach Leslie Frazier and general manager Rick Spielman. Writes Kluwe:
"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."
After a thorough blow-by-blow of Kluwe's final months with the Vikings, he concludes that his ultimate dismissal was the result of a combination of his activism, his age, and his veteran's salary.
"It's clear to me that no matter how much I want to prove I can play, I will no longer punt in the NFL, especially now that I've written this account," wrote Kluwe. "Whether it's my age, my minimum veteran salary, my habit of speaking my mind, or (most likely) a combination of all three, my time as a football player is done. Punters are always replaceable, at least in the minds of those in charge, and I realize that in advocating noisily for social change I only made it easier for them to justify not having me around. So it goes … Some will ask if the NFL has a problem with institutionalized homophobia. I don't think it does. I think there are homophobic people in the NFL, in all positions, but that's true for society as well, and those people eventually get replaced. All we can do is try to expose their behavior when we see it and call them to account for their actions."
Read Kluwe's full article at Deadspin.