Former Vikings punter Chris Kluwe says he was subjected to homophobic language late in his tenure with the team, and eventually cut, because he spoke out in support of gay marriage.
Kluwe says that Mike Priefer, the Vikings’ special teams coach, was openly prejudiced against gays and intolerant of those who support gay rights. Kluwe also says that Vikings General Manager Rick Spielman and former head coach Leslie Frazier ultimately decided to get rid of him because they didn’t like him expressing his views.
“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,” Kluwe wrote at Deadspin today.
Frazier was fired this week and Priefer’s future with the Vikings is unclear, but Kluwe says that Priefer shouldn’t be a coach with the Vikings or anyone else.
“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 wrote.
At a time when the NFL is investigating the Miami Dolphins for allegedly allowing Richie Incognito and other players to bully Jonathan Martin, Kluwe paints a picture of Priefer that may force the NFL to launch another investigation.
“Priefer would use homophobic language in my presence,” Kluwe writes. “Priefer also said on multiple occasions that I would wind up burning in hell with the gays.”
Kluwe says that when he began supporting gay marriage vocally, Frazier wanted him to keep his mouth shut. But when Frazier found out that Vikings owner Zygi Wilf had approached Kluwe and told him he was glad Kluwe was speaking out in support of gay marriage, Frazier said, “Well, he writes the checks. It looks like I’ve been overruled.”
Kluwe also says Spielman instructed him to “fly under the radar” after Kluwe tweeted about the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI, and Kluwe believes Spielman decided to draft punter Jeff Locke last year in large part because he didn’t want to deal with Kluwe expressing his views — and with the clash between Kluwe and Priefer. After the Vikings drafted Locke, Kluwe writes, “Rick told me that this was solely about competition and had nothing to do with my views. I do not believe he was telling the truth.”
In fairness to the Vikings, it should be pointed out that Kluwe was also a mediocre punter in 2012, ranking 22nd in the NFL in punting average and 17th in net average. And at 32, he’s older than most NFL punters. Kluwe says his numbers were down in part because he was instructed to kick higher and shorter punts because the Vikings were struggling in their punt coverage, but it’s entirely possible that Kluwe wouldn’t have a job in the NFL anymore whether he were speaking out for gay marriage, speaking out against gay marriage, or not saying anything at all.
Still, Locke’s gross average and net average were both lower in 2013 than Kluwe’s were in 2012. Cutting Kluwe and drafting Locke doesn’t seem to have helped the Vikings on the field.
Regardless of the reasons Kluwe was cut, if his description of Priefer’s homophobic comments is accurate, then Priefer could (and should) face NFL discipline. Open expressions of bigotry should have no place in the NFL.