He’s been looking for work since his time in Minnesota came to an end shortly after the team drafted Jeff Locke in the 2013 draft, but hasn’t been able to catch on with a team, despite his still-respectable abilities. He has strong suspicions why this might be, and he’s probably right. Now that he’s come to terms with the end of his punting career, Chris Kluwe explains what he think happened between him and the Vikings in 2012 and pretty much guarantees he will never work in the NFL again:
During the summer of 2012, I was approached by a group called Minnesotans for Marriage Equality, which asked if I would be interested in helping defeat what was known as the Minnesota Gay Marriage Amendment. The proposed amendment would have defined marriage as “only a union of one man and one woman.” (It was voted down, and same-sex marriage is now legal in Minnesota.) I said yes, but that I would have to clear it with the team first. After talking to the Vikings legal department, I was given the go-ahead to speak on the issue as long as I made it clear I was acting as a private citizen, not as a spokesman for the Vikings, which I felt was fair and complied with. I did several radio advertisements and a dinner appearance for Minnesotans for Marriage Equality. No one from the Vikings’ legal department told me I was doing anything wrong or that I had to stop.
On Sept. 7, 2012, this website published a letter I had written to Maryland delegate Emmett C. Burns Jr. chastising him for trampling the free-speech rights of Baltimore Ravens linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo. The letter also detailed why I supported the rights of same-sex couples to get married. It quickly went viral.
On Sept. 8, the head coach of the Vikings, Leslie Frazier, called me into his office after our morning special-teams meeting. I anticipated it would be about the letter (punters aren’t generally called into the principal’s office). 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). 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.” I repeated my stance that this was the right thing to do, that equality is not something to be denied anyone, and that I would not promise to cease speaking out. At that point, Coach Frazier told me in a flat voice, “If that’s what you feel you have to do,” and the meeting ended. The atmosphere was tense as I left the room.
So there you have it. 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. (Frazier was fired on Monday, at the conclusion of a 5-10-1 season.) 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.
If there’s one thing I hope to achieve from sharing this story, it’s to make sure that Mike Priefer never holds a coaching position again in the NFL, and ideally never coaches at any level. (According to the Pioneer Press, he is “the only in-house candidate with a chance” at the head-coaching job.) It’s inexcusable that someone would use his status as a teacher and a role model to proselytize on behalf of his own doctrine of intolerance, and I hope he never gets another opportunity to pass his example along to anyone else. I also hope that Leslie Frazier and Rick Spielman take a good look in the mirror and ask themselves if they are the people they truly profess themselves to be.
Update, 3 January: The Vikings have hired two lawyers, one of them the former chief justice of the Minnesota Supreme Court, to investigate Kluwe’s allegations.
Eric Magnuson, the former chief justice of the Minnesota Supreme Court, and Chris Madel, a former U.S. Department of Justice Trial attorney, will lead the investigation.
“It is extremely important for the Vikings organization to react immediately and comprehensively with an independent review of these allegations,” Vikings owner/president Mark Wilf said in a statement issued by the team Friday.
Magnuson and Madel are partners in the firm Robins, Kaplan, Miller & Ciresi L.L.P. Their investigation is already underway, according to the Vikings’ release.
“This is a highly sensitive matter that we as an organization will address with integrity,” Vikings vice president of legal affairs and chief administrative officer Kevin Warren said in the statement.
“Eric and Chris have stellar reputations in both the local and national legal community. They have handled numerous cases involving a wide range of issues, and we are confident they will move swiftly and fairly in completing this investigation.”
The Vikings investigation comes a little less than two months after the NFL hired attorney Ted Wells to investigate issues of workplace conduct with the Miami Dolphins, who asked the league for help after representatives for tackle Jonathan Martin turned over evidence of alleged abuse at the hands of teammate Richie Incognito.
The results of Wells’ investigation, which are to be made public, have not yet been released. Martin never returned to the team after a cafeteria prank Oct. 28. Incognito finished the season on the suspended list.
“The Vikings contacted us yesterday about the matter and have kept us fully informed,” league spokesman Greg Aiello wrote in an email to USA TODAY Sports. “We have no plans to conduct a separate review.”