Minessota Vikings deny Chris Kluwe fired for being pro-gay

The Minnesota Vikings issued a statement yesterday denying former punter Chris Kluwe’s claim that the team fired him for being pro-gay.

The Vikings added that they are currently investigating Kluwe’s allegations that they have already concluded aren’t true. Not a very auspicious beginning.

As we reported yesterday, the heterosexual Kluwe has been one of the few NFL players, along with Brendon Ayanbadejo, to be outspoken in favor of gay rights, particularly marriage equality.

Kluwe claims that several Vikings coaches were not pleased about his outspoken comments in favor of gay rights, and that one coach in particular would make homophobic comments, including suggesting that gays should be rounded up and murdered.

Kluwe did indicate, however, that team owner Zygi Wilf was supportive of his pro-gay commentary.  Nonetheless, Kluwe says he was let go as a result of those comments.

Chris Kluwe by Joe Bielawa.

Chris Kluwe by Joe Bielawa.

From my earlier reporting:

Coach Frazier immediately told me that I ‘needed to be quiet, and stop speaking out on this stuff‘,” referring to Kluwe’s gay rights advocacy.  Kluwe says he told Coach Frazier that he felt speaking out was the right thing to do, and Coach Frazier “reiterated his fervent desire for me to cease speaking on the subject, stating that ‘a wise coach once told me there are two things you don’t talk about in the NFL, politics and religion.’”

Kluwe also alleges that Vikings special-teams coordinator, Coach Mike Priefer, was particularly homophobic, and would call gays “disgusting,” and talk about them “burning in hell.”

“Throughout the months of September, October, and November, Minnesota Vikings special-teams coordinator Mike Priefer would use homophobic language in my presence,” Kluwe writes. “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.”

Possibly the worst allegation is that Priefer allegedly said that gays should be rounded up, put on an island, and nuked.

“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,’” Kluwe says. ”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.’ After this point, Mike Priefer began saying less and less to me, and our interactions were stilted.”

Here’s the Vikings’ statement denying the allegations they have yet to investigate:

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 organization, 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 emphasized 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.

Priefer, for his part, issued a statement as well:

“I vehemently deny today’s allegations made by Chris Kluwe. I want to be clear that I do not tolerate discrimination of any type and am respectful of all individuals. I personally have gay family members who I love and support just as I do any family member. The comments today have not only attacked my character and insulted my professionalism, but they have also impacted my family.”

Regardless of whether Kluwe was let go for playing a poor game of football or not, his allegations go far beyond that.  Kluwe alleges, with an awful lot of detail, that the former chief coach, and a current coach, tried to stifle his pro-gay speech.  And what’s more, Kluwe alleges that Coach Priefer, who is still on staff, is a raging homophobe who suggested that gays be exterminated en masse, Holocaust-style.  If, as Kluwe alleges, these comments were made in front of other teammates, then it shouldn’t be terribly difficult to get at least one teammate to confirm that.

Of course, the larger question is, if the comments are confirmed, who among the Vikings coaches, and higher, knew of the comments, and what was done about them if anything?

(I’m told that in order to better see my Facebook posts in your feed, you need to “follow” me.)

Follow me on Twitter: @aravosis | @americablog | @americabloggay | Facebook | Instagram | Google+ | LinkedIn. John Aravosis is the Executive Editor of AMERICAblog, which he founded in 2004. He has a joint law degree (JD) and masters in Foreign Service from Georgetown; and has worked in the US Senate, World Bank, Children's Defense Fund, the United Nations Development Programme, and as a stringer for the Economist. He is a frequent TV pundit, having appeared on the O'Reilly Factor, Hardball, World News Tonight, Nightline, AM Joy & Reliable Sources, among others. John lives in Washington, DC. .

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22 Responses to “Minessota Vikings deny Chris Kluwe fired for being pro-gay”

  1. Steven Leahy says:

    I absolutely believe Kluwe. Those of us who are gay, especially, are acutely aware of what straight men tend to do and say when they get together, and some good old fashioned [email protected] always seems to rear its ugly head. I have heard this my whole life in the military, work, and at any social venue where the good ole boys congregate. We all know it can, does, and will happen – frequently. Fortunately I eventually grew a pair and speak up – loudly – when I hear it. Good for Kluwe for having the guts to stand his ground.

  2. Sameboat1 says:

    Yep. Same thing as “I have black friends.”

  3. margaretpoa says:

    Other players had to be aware of his homophobic slurs. I guess we’ll see which among them have a yard of guts to speak up.

  4. FLL says:

    From Priefer’s statement:

    I personally have gay family members who I love and support just as I do any family member.

    The first half of this statement will likely become an increasingly popular defense among bigots trying to keep their jobs simply because virtually any American today can honestly say that they have openly gay family members, although that may sometimes refer to extended family. The second half of the statement is a lie, of course, but bigots will gamble that their other family members won’t expose that lie to avoid bringing negative public attention to their family. The first half of Priefer’s statement is vacuous and sheds light on nothing.

  5. cole3244 says:

    just because kluwe was so outspoken about such a controversial subject and him being in such a macho profession i tend to believe him, plus the supposed reaction from one of his coaches seems reasonable to expect from a bigot or a gay curious coward who can’t deal with his own feelings.

  6. The Starship Maxima says:

    So…..because Priefer and the Vikings deny Kluwe’s claims, they are liars? Because Kluwe’s story has a lot of dramatic detail, it’s true?

    If that’s what passes for objectivity, we’ve got a problem.

  7. karmanot says:

    It means his frog died on the lab table.

  8. CA_2013 says:

    I work for a major U.S. corporation. If any employee or any manager at any level at my company had an outburst like Priefer’s then they would be fired. This isn’t about free speech. Priefer is certainly entitled to hold his hideous views. What he should not be allowed to do is to allow his beliefs to diminish if not eviscerate his position as a leader and to demolish the morale of his colleagues and the players that he is charged with leading. Most of the players are in their 20s and still young guys; so good leadership is essential. And to think that he’s up to be the head coach. Wow. It’s shameful that the Vikings have such low standards as an organization. Perhaps the team will in the end do the right thing.

  9. JeffAtMinetfiber says:

    This has reached the outside media. There was an article on ESPN that basically said Kluwe was let go for performance, BUT did talk substantially about Kluwe’s claims of Preifer’s behavior, in a way that was supportive of Kluwe’s claims.

  10. JeffAtMinetfiber says:

    I’m sure they did, and I’m sure they have internal documentation that backs up their claim. Of course, the documentation will be based on biased “performance reviews” and other such bullshit, to cover their bigoted, lying asses.

  11. You lost me.

  12. pappyvet says:

    It really is the same thing isn’t it

  13. The_Fixer says:

    It really is yet another variation of the same-old denial we get from anyone who’s said such bigoted things, isn’t it? “Who, Me? I have friends and family who are gay and I love them all…”

    It’s PR bullshit, and as such, it stinks.

  14. The_Fixer says:

    The only NFL team that is truly non-profit is the Green Bay Packers. They are a public non-profit corporation, the spectators (who live locally and in other cities) can actually own stock in the corporation. There is no one owner – everybody is an owner. The Packers show that the dirty little secret in pro U.S. football is that you don’t need some rich-guy owner to function as an NFL team.

    Any money collected above the cost of doing business is either reinvested in the team and its business ventures or donated to charitable causes. When they remodeled the skyboxes, the old appliances and furniture were donated to local thrift shops. Every year they donate a significant amount of money to local charities. That’s pretty amazing in an age when competition against teams owned by multi-millionaires would seem to doom such a team.

    The community of Green Bay is connected to the team like no other. When the stadium needs the snow to be shoveled out of the stadium in advance of a game, the locals come out to do it (and get paid $10 and hour cash to do so). They regularly turn people away because more than enough people show up to do the job.

    They’re not perfect, of course. But it does show that the NFL can be truly non-profit if it wants to.

  15. MyrddinWilt says:

    I wouldn’t call that bullying, I would call it ‘extortion’. The behavior went way beyond hazing into outright criminal behavior.

    US society has a real problem holding anyone in authority to account. In the UK the starting premise for ultimate legal authority is that the show should be run by the descendant of a mad German whose dad got the job despite being 50th or so in line because all the others were suspected of being Catholic. So everyone knows that the whole authority thing is really a sham. In the US many if not most people in authority believe the Constitution was handed by God himself to Moses on mount Zion and anyone who doubts that is a pinko commie who doubts the good book and should be murdered.

    I don’t understand how the NFL can possible claim to be a not-for-profit organization. The teams are certainly for-profit ventures and the NFL clearly operates as a commercial venture.

  16. pappyvet says:

    Well I didn’t really expect Mike Priefer to say “Ok fair cop , we want all of you to die.”

    That Priefer may have gay family members is not much of a defense in my book.

  17. Bose says:

    While it’s always prudent to be on alert for extreme claims which turn out to be sh*t people made up, it’s not hard to give Kluwe the benefit of the doubt. His dissection of objective facts vs. subjective conclusions tells me everything I need to know about his credibility.

  18. lynchie says:

    This is just like the situation in Miami with the player who was bullied. they all saw it and are afraid to come forward. Funny the big investigation the NFL was doing has quietly died. In regards to Kluwe if the players heard it and the coach and assistants heard it who can he complain to about the comments and harrassment—no one. Bad situations in the NFL who amazingly enjoy a non profit tax free status so their millions can be protected to continue keeping the sheeple entertained on Sundays.

  19. dcinsider says:

    It is important to note that Preifer was (or is) a candidate for the coaching job in MN. What Kluwe did, and it is quite clear why he did it, was inject a poison pill into Preifer’s chances of getting the head coaching job, and indeed any head coaching job in the NFL. The guy is now officially radioactive, and my guess is that was Kluwe’s motivation for this, and for his timing.

    Nice job Chris. Guys like Preifer have no business being in leadership positions. The guy is toast.

  20. heimaey says:

    What else would they say? Obviously they knew they’d be suspect when he was fired, so they should have thought about this ahead of time.

  21. Thom Allen says:

    The Vikings will conduct an inquiry. And I’m sure that it will be a whitewash. They’ve already stated their position in the above PR blurb. We’re great, not bigoted; Kluwe’s wrong it was his performance, solely, nothing else. So his salary wasn’t an issue at all, either? Were his stats worse because of how they asked him to play? No, they just blew those claims off.

    “If, as Kluwe alleges, these comments were made in front of other
    teammates, then it shouldn’t be terribly difficult to get at least one
    teammate to confirm that.” I hope that’s true. However, my gut feeling is that the players will just STFU to keep getting their paychecks. They saw what happened to Kluwe. They know that they’ll get axed because of their “poor performances” if they speak out.

  22. Drew2u says:

    It’s a good thing taxpayers are paying for a new stadium for the nonprofit NFL agency, neh?

    How much do you want to bet if this reaches the outside media, the story won’t be “Vikings coach and coordinator use anti-gay speech in the locker room” (as in that one basketball coach who threw temper-tantrums on the court and used the “fag”-bomb), but rather “Kluwe still sore over being let go from the Vikings” (thus whitewashing the higher-ups’ comments)?

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