In case you missed it, now-former Vikings punter Chris Kluwe dragged the NFL into the 21st century kicking and screaming faster than you can say “Michael Sam” earlier this year by claiming that the team fired him not for his performance on the field but for his outspoken gay rights advocacy.
Kluwe hired a lawyer to help him make that point way back in January, and now the proverbial stuff is finally starting to hit the fan within the Vikings organization.
In short, Kluwe’s former special teams coach did indeed say that ““We should round up all the gays, send them to an island, and then nuke it until it glows.”
But his opinion doesn’t represent that of the larger organization. And he’s totes not homophobic in the first place.
Now remember what coach Mike Priefer wrote when the allegations first appeared:
“I vehemently deny today’s allegations made by Chris Kluwe…As a coach, I have always created an accepting environment for my players, including Chris, and have looked to support them both on and off the field.
The comments today have not only attacked my character and insulted my professionalism, but they have also impacted my family.”
An independent investigation conducted by lawyers hired by the Vikings concluded that, yes, he said the thing he never admitted to saying. (Among the 31 people interviewed were all of the team’s PR folks.) He will face a fine and a three-game suspension. And yet…
“The record supports the conclusion that players and management were concerned about the distraction that Kluwe’s activism was creating, as opposed to the nature and content of his activism.”
We might ask the lawyers hired by the Vikings how activism could be a “distraction” if its nature and content was never an issue. The team also found evidence to make Kluwe himself look bad, noting that he told his share of tasteless jokes along with everyone else in the locker room. Oh, and also:
“The objective evidence, in addition to the subjective evaluation of coaches, special teams staff members and external evaluators, simply contradict Kluwe’s view of his performance in 2012. No interviewed witness agreed that Kluwe had a good year in 2012.”
He was old, too!
This case, at the very least, provides us with an interesting glimpse inside the larger football culture and the ways in which teams try to downplay the less appealing aspects of that culture to the outside world.
Yes, our coach said homophobic things. Yes, the fact that our punter was better known for his LGBT advocacy than his football was one of the main reasons we fired him. But we love all our fans equally and would go all-out to avoid insulting those who happen to both support our team and be homosexual.
Anyone buying that?
And does anyone doubt that NFL teams will use this case as a motivator to get their players to stop being homophobes off the field?