Former Viking Kluwe: I was cut by cowards, bigot


Former Minnesota Vikings punter Chris Kluwe has never been shy about expressing his opinion.

But his most recent comments may be his strongest yet.

In a lengthy piece written for Deadspin, Kluwe calls former Vikings head coach Leslie Frazier and current general manager Rick Spielman cowards, and refers to special teams coordinator Mike Priefer as a bigot.

There was no immediate response from the Vikings organization, Priefer, Frazier, or Spielman.

Kluwe says that, while he can't prove it, he's "pretty confident" his outspoken support of gay marriage is what got him cut from the team's roster this past offseason.

Kluwe saves the most direct criticism for Priefer, who he says began using "homophobic language" when Kluwe was around, despite not having done so before. That came after Kluwe wrote a pro gay marriage letter (also published on Deadspin).

Writes Kluwe now:

[Priefer] 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 ... I felt uncomfortable each time Mike Priefer said these things. After all, he was directly responsible for reviewing my job performance ...

Kluwe goes into more detail, saying he was berated by Priefer after a bad game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in a way he's never been berated before. Toward the end of November, Kluwe claims Priefer said the following during a specialist meeting:

As we sat down in our chairs, Mike Priefer, in one of the meanest voices I can ever recall hearing, said: "We should round up all the gays, send them to an island, and then nuke it until it glows." The room grew intensely quiet, and none of the players said a word for the rest of the meeting. The atmosphere was decidedly tense. I had never had an interaction that hostile with any of my teammates on this issue—some didn't agree with me, but our conversations were always civil and respectful. Afterward, several told me that what Mike Priefer had said was "messed up."

Kluwe also details talks he says he had with Frazier and Spielman over a three-day period in 2012, in the days surrounding the team's Sept. 9 game against Jacksonville. Both men asked him to tone down his rhetoric; Kluwe says he declined to do so, but assured them he would clarify his views were his own and not representative of the Vikings organization, and he would not denigrate the team.

Between those meetings (on the day of the Jacksonville game), he says the team's owner, Zygi Wilf, encouraged the vocal activism, telling the punter he was greatly moved by a gay wedding he had recently attended.

He also accuses the team's head of public relations, Bob Hagan, of holding back media requests to interview Kluwe.

Kluwe says the team brought in punting competition during the season, and when Priefer began speaking to him less, Kluwe felt his job was in danger. Kluwe says he had meniscus surgery at the end of January, and heard nothing from Frazier or any of the other coaches from the final season meeting on Jan. 9, to his arrival at OTAs on April 21. He had one conversation with Spielman, he says, in which the general manager asked him to stop tweeting about the pope.

The Vikings drafted punter Jeff Locke less than a week later, and Kluwe was quickly cut.

Shortly after Kluwe's release, Priefer said he felt "very strongly" about the move.

Kluwe contends he was "fired" by Priefer, and calls both Frazier and Spielman cowardly for not standing up to Priefer on a divisive topic – despite, as Kluwe notes multiple times, his punting numbers being the best in Vikings history and well in line with his career averages.

Kluwe acknowledges his age and veterans minimum salary may have played a part in his release. But he firmly believes his outspokenness was the driving factor – for both the Vikings letting him go, and his difficulty finding another job afterward. He's accepted his career as an NFL player is over, he says.

So what's Kluwe's goal with this piece? We'll let him explain.

[I]t's to make sure that Mike Priefer never holds a coaching position again in the NFL, and ideally never coaches at any level ... It's inexcusable that someone would use his status as a teacher and a role model to proselytize on behalf of his own doctrine of intolerance, and I hope he never gets another opportunity to pass his example along to anyone else.

Priefer is still under contract with the Vikings, along with all of the Vikings coordinators and non-head coaches, despite the team firing Frazier on Black Monday.

Earlier in the day, the team issued a statement regarding Erin Henderson, who was arrested on suspicion of drunk driving.

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