Chris Kluwe says he was fired from Minnesota Vikings because of his gay activism and a 'bigot coach'
Team will 'thoroughly review' matter but insists Kluwe was released strictly based on his football performance
Chris Kluwe came out swinging Thursday against his former NFL team, the Minnesota Vikings, for firing him from his job as a punter after eight years.
In a column published on Deadspin, he calls special-teams coordinator Mike Priefer a ‘bigot’ who didn’t agree with his increasingly high-profile work for LGBTI equality.
The former player alleges that Priefer – the coach directly responsible for reviewing Kluwe’s job performance – suddenly started using homophobic language in his presence throughout September, October and November of 2012.
Kluwe, who is straight, quotes Priefer as saying at one point: ‘We should round up all the gays, send them to an island, and then nuke it until it glows.’
Kluwe also writes of Priefer: ‘He would ask me if I had written any letters defending "the gays" recently and denounce as disgusting the idea that two men would kiss, and he would constantly belittle or demean any idea of acceptance or tolerance.’
The coach, in a session with the media, referred to Kluwe’s activism as ‘those distractions’ which he said ‘are getting old for me, to be honest with you. … He’s got to focus on punting and holding.’
Kluwe writes that while he had one particularly bad game, at that point his performance was on par with previous seasons. Still, he was receiving negative feedback.
He said he was given the cold shoulder after the season ended and on 6 May 2013 was informed he was being let go after eight years with the team.
Kluwe writes: ‘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.’
He adds: ‘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.’
Priefer is reportedly the main candidate for the team’s head coaching job.
The Vikings issued a statement Thursday saying they are taking Kluwe’s allegations ‘very seriously’ and the matter would get ‘thorough review.’
The team states in part: ‘Any notion that Chris was released from our football team due to his stance on marriage equality is entirely inaccurate and inconsistent with team policy. Chris was released strictly based on his football performance.
Kluwe maintains he can still perform at a top NFL level but he believes his career in the league is over.
‘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,’ he writes.
He concludes the column with this: ‘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.’