Chris Kluwe: I was fired from the Vikings by “two cowards and a bigot”

Kluwe says he was fired because team executives "didn’t agree with the cause I was working for"

Topics: Chris kluwe, Homophobia, NFL, homophobia in sports, ,

Chris Kluwe: I was fired from the Vikings by "two cowards and a bigot"

In a long and detailed account of his time playing for the Minnesota Vikings published Thursday on Deadspin, former punter and outspoken LGBT equality advocate Chris Kluwe writes that he 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.”

While Kluwe remained neutral in early interviews about his firing — often saying, “I honestly don’t know, because I’m not in those meetings with the coaches and administrative people” — his piece in Deadspin is far more direct.

Kluwe says he is “pretty confident” that his activism is the reason he got fired, and goes on to support this believe through a dizzying array of allegations of homophobia and cowardice against team executives.

The whole thing is well worth your time, but here are a few excerpts of the most damning allegations against Frazier, Priefer and Spielman:

On head coach Frazier:

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.

On special teams coordinator Priefer:



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Throughout the months of September, October, and November, Minnesota Vikings special-teams coordinator Mike Priefer would use homophobic language in my presence. He had not done so during minicamps or fall camp that year, nor had he done so during the 2011 season. 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. I tried to laugh these off while also responding with the notion that perhaps they were human beings who deserved to be treated as human beings. Mike Priefer also said on multiple occasions that I would wind up burning in hell with the gays, and that the only truth was Jesus Christ and the Bible. He said all this in a semi-joking tone, and I responded in kind, as I felt a yelling match with my coach over human rights would greatly diminish my chances of remaining employed. I felt uncomfortable each time Mike Priefer said these things. After all, he was directly responsible for reviewing my job performance, but I hoped that after the vote concluded in Minnesota his behavior would taper off and eventually stop.

On Oct. 25, I had a poor game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and the Vikings brought in several punters for a workout to potentially replace me. I do not believe this was motivated by my speaking out on same-sex equality, though I do not know for sure. During the special-teams meeting the following day, Mike Priefer berated me in an incredibly harsh tone the likes of which I’ve never heard a coach use about my abilities as a punter (and I have been berated before). The room went silent after he finished speaking, in a way that normally does not happen during meetings when someone is being called out. The Vikings kept me on as their punter.

On General Manager Spielman:

On Feb. 11, I received a message saying, “Please fly under radar please,” from a phone number I would later learn belonged to Rick Spielman. The text message presumably concerned several things I had tweeted that day regarding Pope Benedict XVI’s decision to step down. Spielman later called me and asked me to stop tweeting about the pope because angry people were ringing up team headquarters in Winter Park, Minn. It should be noted that my tweets concerned the lack of transparency and endemic institutional corruption of the Catholic Church, which among other things allowed child abuse to flourish. I also pointed out how that applied equally to financial and government institutions, and reiterated that I had nothing against anyone’s religion, only against the abuses of power that institutions allow. Nonetheless, I complied with Spielman’s request and did not tweet anything else about the pope that day, or in the future.

On May 6, I had a meeting with Rick Spielman. He told me that the team was releasing me, and he thanked me for the great work I had done for the Vikings, and also said he would tell other teams how professionally and competently I had executed my duties over the years. I then had a meeting with Leslie Frazier, who repeated that I had been “a fantastic player for this organization” and who also told me, “Don’t close any doors behind you—you never know when things will come full circle.” He thanked me for my services as well, and said I was a great football player. Then I was escorted from the premises and was no longer a Viking.

Katie McDonough is Salon's politics writer, focusing on gender, sexuality and reproductive justice. Follow her on Twitter @kmcdonovgh or email her at kmcdonough@salon.com.

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