Vikings football is rather hard to support now

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!


  1. says

    Chris Kluwe’s job requires him to work in a hostile environment. The comments directed at him were ugly, and they were nasty in a premeditated way. I say “at him” instead of “to him” because the effect was to treat him not as an individual with opinions of his own, but as part of an amorphous pro-gay, liberal bogey man.

    Tribalism in the locker room.

  2. hoku says

    Isn’t it strange that it’s only liberal activists that cause locker room problems and distractions? It’s never the deeply christian guy directly getting in people’s faces telling them they’re going to burn in hell, or that everyone he doesn’t like should be rounded up and nuked. No problems there at all.

  3. Funny Diva says

    Guess I need to buy myself a copy of his new book, “Beautifully Unique Sparkle Ponies”.
    I’ve already checked it out of my local library, but I think a purchase would be an even nicer show of support. That’s even without the irony of using the Xmas Gelt from my right-wing, fundamentalist parents.
    (and yay for my library, which put “Beautifully Unique Sparkle Ponies” on the New and Interesting shelf so I’d know about it!).

    Shame on the Minnesota Vikings organization.

  4. says

    Funny Diva:

    Guess I need to buy myself a copy of his new book, “Beautifully Unique Sparkle Ponies”.

    Ooh, thanks for the mention! Just went to B&N and grabbed the e-book.

  5. patrickspens says

    This isn’t meant to be a defense of the Vikings management, particularly because is sounds like Mike Priefer needs to be fired yesterday, but Kluwe wasn’t cut because of his advocacy, he was cut because he is a mediocre punter who is getting old, and due to the veterans minimum would need to be paid significantly more than he was worth. He had a really high return rate in his last year and failed three tryouts between loosing his job with the Vikings and now.

  6. Ryan Sommers says

    Honestly? With sexism rampant and intolerance common in all major sports, I find it easy to not support them.

  7. says

    Can he file a grievance against the organisation and/or the league? Even if he was let go due to performance, it seems like he could make a case that the work environment was so hostile his performance was affected. Even if he gets no compensation, perhaps these coaches would be justly disciplined. If it was bad for Chris, imagine how it would be being a young gay player on that team overhearing that bigoted crap? Or, now that it’s come to light, how potential future players might feel about playing as an out athlete. (Frankly, I think the Vikings should fire them.)

  8. says

    Were you honestly in danger of supporting the Vikings anyway? It’d be easier to cut that support if you were a Football fan and saw the abomination that is the season they turned in.

    And to echo @6:patrickspens, while his outspoken (and correct) probably made it easier to cut ties with him, it was ultimately his ability that lost him his job and kept him out of the league. The reality is that, as a punter, he’s competing for a position with a small number of positions and a large pool of capable people. If he was a more standout player, there could certainly be a case to be made that it was his views that were the primary reason, but he was an average guy at a non-premium position.

    While not the same root reasons (advocacy vs. actually being gay), it’s very similar to Jason Collins. He was the first “active” player to come out in a major league sport, but then went unsigned and was very suddenly no longer active. And while there can be little doubt that his new-found spotlight contributed to him not being signed, it was his low numbers and value that likely affected it more. The reality of sports is that no matter the distraction or baggage that comes with a player, if he can contribute to the win, they’ll bring him on and the “distractions” can be handled later.

    I have no doubt that Kluwe is telling the truth (or at least being honest with how things were), because that is the culture of it. It’s not a big stretch in a league that attacks the victim over the bully (Incognito vs. Martin) or lets someone get away with killing someone (Donté Stallworth). Not saying that culture is right, but it’s also a culture that values winning above all else.

  9. Brandon says

    While I have no idea what internal discussions might have occurred and find it entirely plausible that his political views played in, Kluwe being cut sure looks like nothing more than a straightforward analytics based decisions. The NFL has veteran minimum salaries that are significantly higher than for younger players; as such, veterans need to add significant value or they’ll become salary cap casualties. While Kluwe was a perfectly acceptable punter, he didn’t really provide any added value over what a freely available rookie or free agent would provide for ~$1 million less. Veteran punters and kickers that aren’t exceptional being cut is pretty standard practice. It’s a less exciting narrative, but there’s a pretty good chance that’s all this is.

  10. What a Maroon, el papa ateo says

    To all of you saying that he was released because of performance issues, that may be the case, but it’s irrelevant. Assuming that his allegations are true, and I see no reason to think they aren’t, his immediate supervisor made the working environment intolerable for him because of his support of human rights. It doesn’t matter if he’s the worst punter in the league or the best quarterback, or for that matter a dishwasher or a teacher or whatever, the comments he endured should not be tolerated in a workplace or any other environment.

  11. patrickspens says


    To all of you saying that he was released because of performance issues, that may be the case, but it’s irrelevant.

    It’s not irrelevant to the claim that he was fired because of his advocacy, which is what I was addressing.

  12. sundiver says

    There is, or rather was, an NFL coach who would have fired this Priefer asshole in a New York minute. Y’all might have heard of him, a guy went by the last name of Lombardi. Yeah, THAT Lombardi. Having experienced discrimination he was staunchly opposed to any form of it, period. When he took over the Potomac Basin Indigenous Persons ( I just can’t type the name Washington D.C.’s NFL franchise uses ) it was an open secret that Jerry Smith was gay. Lombardi called Smith into his office and told him it would never be an issue. When a gay running back with sub-par skills was in training camp in 1969 Lombardi told an assistant coach to work on him and if he heard one word about the back’s manhood that individual would be “out of here before your ass hits the ground”.

  13. PseudoPserious says

    I heard Chris Kluwe on The Nerdist podcast a couple of years ago. It was quite a good interview.

  14. ChasCPeterson says

    To all of you saying that he was released because of performance issues, that may be the case, but it’s irrelevant.

    It’s not irrelevant to a discussion of why he was canned.

    As for the Vikes, 5-10-1. just sayin.

  15. Akira MacKenzie says

    In the meantime, I’m sure those stalwart defenders of civil liberties, the Duck Dynasty fan community, will step up to denouce the Vikings’ infringement of Mr. Kluwe’s freedom of speech any second now…

    …any second…

  16. says

    As for the Vikes, 5-10-1. just sayin.

    Kluwe was cut before this season started.

    The point being that the previous year, the Vikings with Kluwe were a 10-6 playoff team. This year, without him, they struggled. (Yes, one player can influence results to that degree. That player wasn’t Chris Kluwe though – it was Adrian Peterson.) It would be nice to think that Kluwe’s firing was an example of a crappy decision made by a team that did poorly this year due to crappy decisions.

    For me, Chris Kluwe’s presence on the roster was enough of a reason to toss a bit of my support in the general direction of the Vikings.

  17. carlie says

    Does anybody read things that are linked to in the OP? Kluwe addresses everything mentioned here about his performance in that piece he wrote.

  18. says

    Excerpt from the article (link in comment #23):

    It’s a man, a woman, two boys and a girl. None bears tattoos. If they harbor demonic intentions, each has an excellent poker face. And they’re atheists.

    The message of this ad — that atheists can be normal people — is not particularly revelatory. But rather than simply announce that its national convention is slated for April 17-20 at Salt Lake City’s downtown Hilton, the group elected to spoof the LDS Church’s ubiquitous “I’m a Mormon” ad campaign. And for that, the group chose the Monnetts.[…]

  19. says

    From the comments below the Salt Lake Tribune article describing the Atheist Convention billboard:

    Along with being atheists, these people are very brave. There is a good chance the children may be shunned at school or worse. Good luck to them. Stay safe please.
    you’re just trading one organization for another
    Of course they’re harboring demonic intentions! Both the mother and the niece are baring their shoulders. That’s not normal and we need to protect the virtue of the young men who might happen to see such degradation! [pretty sure this is sarcasm, but in Utah you never know]
    The people in the ad are the ones I’m referencing. They leave Mormonism and organize another religion.
    What’s truly foolish is there are people who believe so faithfully that there is no God that they’ve created their own organized “godless” religion to help sell those beliefs. Too bad they can’t see the hypocrisy in that. I consider myself Agnostic, but I don’t need a support group of like minded individuals and an organization hanging billboards to help confirm my beliefs.

  20. says

    More comments associated with the Salt Lake Tribune article:

    Trolls organized enough and insecure enough that they need to print billboards proclaiming their beliefs.
    I’ve met some who are every bit as self-righteous as those they are railing against.
    since when does one need a convention to not believe – well, anything?
    I suspect that what gives birth the “rational human beings” is a big cause of the massive and civilization catastrophes that our upon us.
    “Come explore your doubt with us”? Really? I’m glad I have no doubts about the One True Religion. It’s amazing, that in the year 2014, and with all the numerous examples of there being a god, that people are STILL doubting, and are willing to advertize the fact. […] All it takes is a little application of one’s thoughts and actions to prove God.

    A lot of people in Salt Lake City still missing the point. They really need an Atheist Convention to open their eyes.

  21. Rey Fox says

    I consider myself Agnostic, but I don’t need a support group of like minded individuals and an organization hanging billboards to help confirm my beliefs.

    I sure wish lack of conviction came with lack of blathering.

  22. ChasCPeterson says

    Kluwe was cut before this season started.

    I know. I referred to the title of the OP. Sorry for the confusion.

    And he was canned not for being a crappy punter, but for being too expensive a pretty-good punter. Moneyball.

  23. says

    Mother Jones covered the story, and the Colbert interview:

    In a corporate sports world dominated by controversy-averse players giving boilerplate non-answers, Chris Kluwe is a glimmering sparklepony of candor. The former Minnesota Vikings and current Oakland Raiders punter is best known for his now-infamous letter to a same-sex-marriage opponent in the Maryland General Assembly, assuring Delegate Everett C. Burns Jr. that gay people “won’t turn you into a lustful cockmonster.”

    Kluwe’s devastating takedown, posted on the Gawker sports blog Deadspin in September, generated 2.3 million pageviews and launched the 31-year-old into a new stratosphere of visibility. So much for the stereotypically lonely kicker: Kluwe now has nearly 150,000 Twitter followers (his handle, @ChrisWarcraft, is a nod to his gaming habit) and was even named Salon’s Sexiest Man of the Year. […]

    Yet even internet celebs aren’t immune to their boss’ grumbling: In mid-December, the Vikings’ special-teams coach complained that the punter was becoming a distraction. Asked if he’d approached Kluwe, the coach responded, “Nah. He don’t listen.”[…]

    Scroll down on linked page to view video of Colbert interview.

  24. says

    Excerpt from Mother Jones article (link in comment #29):

    MJ: So that’s how expressions like “beautifully unique sparklepony” and “lustful cockmonster” came into being?

    CK: Right, exactly: through a seething pit of ignoramuses, born of misspoken children on the internet.

    MJ: How much of your writing is spontaneous?

    CK: Generally I put down whatever I’m thinking, and then I’ll go back and edit, but I’d say the vast majority of my writing, if it’s not coming to me right away then I’m probably not going to bother. Insults usually take a little bit more thinking, because I try not to repeat myself. If you work at it, you can almost turn it into an art form, because there is something almost sublimely funny about seeing a really clever mash-up of swear words that you wouldn’t normally expect.

    MJ: What are your favorites?

    CK: I think “lustful cockmonster” probably ranks in the top five. It really does give you a sense of just this angry little penis running at you.

  25. Data Jack says

    And, if you need another reason to go to American Atheists 2014 con, Cristina Rad will be there, as well :)