chris kluwe’s advocacy exploitation

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Chris Kluwe. 

Previously on this blog, I spoke positively of the actions of Spirit Day. On Spirit Day, many major league organizations stood up for anti-bullying, especially with regards to LGBT Youth. America’s most popular league, the NFL, failed to embrace it whole-heartedly. Today, former punter Chris Kluwe went in to depth about the problems he experienced as a gay right’s advocate in the NFL.

Kluwe, if you’re not aware, was a marginal NFL player who got famous for a famous “open letter” published on the popular Gawker sports website Deadspin. In that letter, he addressed a Maryland legislator who had a problem with the outspoken advocacy by Brendon Ayanbadejo, who was a Baltimore Raven at the time. Like Kluwe, Ayanbadejo was a special teams player and only the most dedicated fas would know his name.

A few things happened as a result of this letter and subsequent actions.  Maryland, maybe due in some small part to Ayanbadejo, legalized same-sex marriage at the polls. The special teams linebacker would also go on to help the Ravens win the Super Bowl against the San Francisco 49ers. He’s since retired, though he still remains a straight ally of gay rights.

Brendon Ayanbadejo, Marriage Equality Advocate and Super Bowl Champion

Kluwe went a more boisterous route. Between his famous “open letter” and today’s post, he wrote a book, became a regular contributor to Deadspin, and most importantly, got cut from the Vikings.  Now, let’s bring one thing out in to the forefront.

The 2012 season was not a standout one for Chris Kluwe.  He finished 23rd out of 33 punters in terms of yards per punt. It was not exactly stellar, and one might see why the Vikings let him go in favor of a rookie. To be fair, his replacement in Minnesota, Jeff Locke, wasn’t much better.

In the 2013 offseason, Chris Kluwe signed with the Oakland Raiders and was in competition during camp. The Raiders had let go of their longtime punter Shane Lechler and were looking for someone new in that position. At the end of the pre-season, the younger Marquette King won out and Kluwe was without a job. King, by the way, was the NFL’s leader in yard per punt this year.

From these facts, we can deduct that Kluwe definitely lost out based on merit in his situation with Oakland. The discussion is not about Oakland. It is about Minnesota. Kluwe describes in great detail his interactions with Vikings owner Zygi Wilf, Head Coach Leslie Frazier, General Manager Rick Speilman, and Special Teams Coach Mike Priefer.

Go ahead and read the piece in full detail over on Deadspin. Now, we’ve learned that Zygi Wilf approved of what Chris Kluwe said in 2012 and had no problems with it. Wilf is not a guy in the “football culture” beyond owning a professional sports team. The other three? They have a lot to do with the day-to-day operation of the team.

Frazier and Spielman, who comprised the Vikings’ top positions at the personnel level until this week, were reserved. They asked Kluwe not be a distraction, not to bring in such controversial topics to the team. Priefer, who had the most interaction with Kluwe, went straight firebombing by bigotry to create an uncomfortable situation. Priefer was espousing outdated “football culture”, and may have wanted Kluwe off the team. Eventually, that did happen.

On Thursday, we finally got the “retired” Chris Kluwe’s take on all of this. A few camps are starting to develop about the situation. A very popular one held by those who typically don’t follow sports is that ultimately, Kluwe was good at his job and his stance cost him.  Another is that the homophobic actions of Mike Priefer were awful, but not necessarily what cost Kluwe his job.

I’m particularly in the middle of these mindsets, as frustrating as that may be. Chris Kluwe was not spectacular as a punter, and specialists ultimately have a lower replacement cost than any position on the team. Thus, it was not difficult to see why the Vikings may have wanted to move in a direction. While these types of decisions happen all the time, it’s much easier to pass off to some parties to have a scapegoat. Kluwe’s advocacy is not an attractive crutch, despite his brash and oft-times awful writing. Ultimately, I believe that Mike Priefer wanted to create an uncomfortable environment for Kluwe. Perhaps Kluwe would request a trade, though that is wild conjecture by myself.

Rick Spielman, the General Manager of the Vikings, comes off as more than a coward. Once again, he’s a bumbling with his operation and shutting off personality from his players. One of the worst problems the NFL has is that the entire league is sanitized behind a doubt.  Another popular league, the NBA, loves and embraces all of its personalties and types and does fine. The NFL wants a whole product that is boring and it spread to Eden Prairie, Minnesota.

Chris Kluwe on CONAN

Thus, Spielman was not happy with the way Kluwe was acting and made that clear to Frazier and Priefer. I imagine that he did not tell Priefer to unleash an assault–only to bring up the issue the way Frazier did. Today, Leslie Frazier is no longer the head coach of the Vikings. Mike Priefer continues to be a special teams coach with the Vikings, and of course denies the allegations. None of these men should be in charge of a football team, at any level.

What’s clear to me is that Chris Kluwe was not a noteworthy punter in the year 2012 beyond his advocacy. I, like most others my age, are also in favor of same-sex marriage and wish it to be legal everywhere in the United States as soon as possible. Where we differ from Chris Kluwe is that we’re generally not using advocacy an exploitation of our situations. Kluwe was never going to be a big star in the NFL–he was a punter. I don’t think that was ever his ambition with the letter, just a consequence (even then, he’s no Aaron Rodgers).  Many will forget the path forged by Brendon Ayanbadejo, despite his solid work for the cause.

Chris Kluwe was not a very good punter in 2012. He may have lost his job as a consequence of poor performance. What happened was that a bumbling Vikings staff created a vile scapegoat by heavily mentioning his advocacy.  Ultimately, the support of same-sex marriage should benefit everyone and not just one average NFL punter.

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