Chris Kluwe was cut by the Minnesota Vikings last year, and he believes his firing likely had more to do with his personal beliefs than his punting ability.
Kluwe, 32, is an activist for same-sex marriage rights and was very outspoken about it during the final years of his six-year tenure with the Vikings. Kluwe wrote in an article posted Thursday on Deadspin that his activism caused some problems for him within the organization during his final year with the team and might have been the reason for his release.
Last April, Kluwe wrote down his recollections of the events that transpired during his final year with the team. He claims in the letter that Vikings staff tried to dissuade him from speaking out about his views on multiple occasions, and in his closing statement, Kluwe called then-head coach Leslie Frazier and general manager Rick Spielman “cowards” and special teams coach Mike Priefer a “bigot.”
According to Kluwe, Frazier instructed him that he “needed to be quiet, and stop speaking out” about his views. Kluwe also recounted interactions on the practice field and in meetings with Priefer, who allegedly berated the punter for his views and even used homophobic language in his presence. Kluwe claimed that Priefer specifically asked him to dial back his punts to help the special-teams unit, then consistently gave him negative grades in meetings. Kluwe did write at the end of the piece that he hopes his account ensures Priefer, a potential candidate for the Vikings’ head-coaching opening after Frazier’s recent firing, never lands another coaching job at any level.
While Kluwe acknowledged he can’t be sure his views were the sole reason behind his release, he did note his interactions with Vikings officials about his outspoken nature at least raised suspicion it might have been a factor.
Kluwe signed with the Oakland Raiders during the offseason and made it all the way through training camp. He was on the final 53-man roster before being cut in favor of Marquette King and didn’t punt for any NFL team during the regular season. Now, Kluwe admits, he might not punt in the NFL again, especially after airing the Vikings’ dirty laundry.
Update: The Vikings later released a statement about Kluwe’s accusations.
“The Minnesota Vikings were made aware of Chris Kluwe’s allegations for the first time today. We take them very seriously and will thoroughly review this matter.
“As an organization, the Vikings consistently strive to create a supportive, respectful and accepting environment for all of our players, coaches and front office personnel. We do not tolerate discrimination at any level. The team has long respected our players’ and associates’ individual rights, and, as Chris specifically stated, Vikings ownership supports and promotes tolerance, including on the subject of marriage equality. Because he was identified with the Vikings, Chris was asked to be respectful while expressing his opinions. Team ownership and management also repeatedly emphasized to Chris that the Vikings would not impinge on his right to express his views.
“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.
“We will have further comment at the appropriate time.”