Ex-NFL Punter Says He Was Fired Because of His Gay-Marriage Advocacy

Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
Jan. 2 2014 2:42 PM

Ex-NFL Punter Says He Was Fired Because of His Gay-Marriage Advocacy

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Minnesota Vikings punter Chris Kluwe against the Chicago Bears Dec. 3, 2006 in Chicago

Photo by Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images

Chris Kluwe, the former NFL punter (and occasional Slate contributor) best known off the football field for his outspoken advocacy of marriage equality, has a long post up on Deadspin this afternoon detailing his last days as a Minnesota Vikings. "I honestly don't know if my activism was the reason I got fired," Kluwe writes early in the nearly 4,000-word piece. "However, I'm pretty confident it was."

Kluwe had previously repeatedly sidestepped questions about whether his very public advocacy for gay rights ultimately cost him his job with the Vikings—a silence that, based on the piece's scorched-earth headline of "I Was An NFL Player Until I Was Fired By Two Cowards And A Bigot," he clearly no longer has any interest in keeping. Here's the snippet that sums up the ex-punter's side of the story the best:

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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, [head coach] Leslie Frazier and [general manager] 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 [special teams coach] 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.

According to at least one Vikings beat reporter, Priefer has (or perhaps had after today) the best chance of anyone on Frazier's former staff to replace him as head coach. According to Kluwe, the prospect of that was the driving force behind his decision to finally go public. "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," Kluwe writes. Given the publicity his allegations are likely to generate, it's hard to imagine Priefer remaining on the Vikings short-list of potential new head coaches for long. (The don't-be-a-distraction NFL ethos Kluwe mentions throughout his post likely extends to coaches too.)

It's worth noting that Kluwe made sure to stress that he doesn't believe that the NFL itself has a problem with "institutionalized" homophobia, and likewise mentions that Vikings owner Zygi Wilf had privately voiced his support of Kluwe's advocacy. "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," he writes. "All we can do is try to expose their behavior when we see it and call them to account for their actions."

Slate will have more on Kluwe and the larger issues at play later. But for now go check out Kluwe's full post over at Deadspin.

***Follow @JoshVoorhees and the rest of the @slatest team on Twitter.***

Josh Voorhees is a Slate senior writer. He lives in Iowa City. Follow him on Twitter.