Ex-Minnesota Vikings punter Chris Kluwe said he’s “pretty confident” that his former team cut him for speaking his mind and accused an assistant coach of being a bigot in a scathing article on Deadspin.
Kluwe was released by the Vikings last May.
He has yet to find a job, despite having statistics that are in line with the NFL average.
Kluwe says special teams coordinator Mike Priefer turned on him once Kluwe began speaking out against the Minnesota Gay Marriage Amendment — which would ban gay marriage in the state — in the fall of 2012.
Kluwe claims that Priefer would use anti-gay slurs around him and unfairly criticise his performance.
Here’s the most damning accusation:
“Near the end of November, several teammates and I were walking into a specialist meeting with Coach Priefer. We were laughing over one of the recent articles I had written supporting same-sex marriage rights, and one of my teammates made a joking remark about me leading the Pride parade. 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.”
“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.”
Kluwe also claims that Priefer instructed him to start kicking shorter punts with more hangtime because his coverage team was so slow. When Kluwe followed those instructions, Priefer gave him negative scores in his evaluation.
Kluwe, who acknowledged that writing the post would mean he’ll never get another NFL job, said this was his motivation for writing it:
“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. (According to the Pioneer Press, he is ‘the only in-house candidate with a chance’ at the head-coaching job.) 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.”
Kluwe believes that Priefer fired him, and head coach Leslie Frazier and GM Rick Spielman were “cowards” for letting it happen.
The Vikings have previously denied cutting Kluwe for off-field reasons.
The team released the following statement:
“The Minnesota Vikings were made aware of Chris Kluwe’s allegations for the first time today. We take them very seriously and will thoroughly review this matter.
“As an organisation, the Vikings consistently strive to create a supportive, respectful and accepting environment for all of our players, coaches and front office personnel. We do not tolerate discrimination at any level. The team has long respected our players’ and associates’ individual rights, and, as Chris specifically stated, Vikings ownership supports and promotes tolerance, including on the subject of marriage equality. Because he was identified with the Vikings, Chris was asked to be respectful while expressing his opinions. Team ownership and management also repeatedly emphasised to Chris that the Vikings would not impinge on his right to express his views.
“Any notion that Chris was released from our football team due to his stance on marriage equality is entirely inaccurate and inconsistent with team policy. Chris was released strictly based on his football performance.
“We will have further comment at the appropriate time.”
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