Not that I was ever much of a booster, but this behind-the-scenes look at how team management operates by Chris Kluwe is disappointing. He was fired from his position as a punter after he’d achieved some notoriety for his progressive positions and lack of religiosity — and he now explains that it’s likely that it was because of those positions. And man, it sounds like he was working in an ugly environment.
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.
My limited experience with football coaches suggests that this isn’t an unusual attitude they take. Kluwe also stirred up concern because he said a few harsh things about the Catholic Church — I can relate.
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.
Now I’m really looking forward to the American Atheists convention in Salt Lake this April — Kluwe is the keynote speaker. I hope I can meet him there, and shake his hand.
But then there are a lot of good people who will be speaking there: Barry Lynn, Maryam Namazie, Matt Dillahunty, Greta Christina, Sikivu Hutchinson, Vyckie Garrison…you should register now!