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Hullabaloo


Thursday, January 02, 2014

 
Chris Kluwe let go by Vikings while Phil Robertson gets back on TV

by David Atkins

Chris Kluwe, punter for the NFL's Minnesota Vikings and outspoken marriage equality advocate, was let go from the roster this offseason for reasons that seem more than a little bit suspiciously linked to his political stance on the issue. His direct boss the special teams coach appears to be a fundamentalist bigot:

Throughout the months of September, October, and November, Minnesota Vikings special-teams coordinator Mike Priefer would use homophobic language in my presence. He had not done so during minicamps or fall camp that year, nor had he done so during the 2011 season. 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. 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. 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. I felt uncomfortable each time Mike Priefer said these things. After all, he was directly responsible for reviewing my job performance, but I hoped that after the vote concluded in Minnesota his behavior would taper off and eventually stop...

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. 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. I grew increasingly concerned that my job would be in jeopardy. I had seen the same pattern of behavior directed at our former placekicker, Ryan Longwell, whom Mike Priefer began to ignore during the 2011 season and who was cut after rookie minicamps in early May 2012.
As a privately owned franchise the Vikings are free to do as they please, just as A&E was free to do as it pleased with regard to Phil Robertson.

But to those who say we've nearly won the fight on gay rights, realize there remains an incredible amount of work to do even in the entertainment industry. Something is still very wrong when a child-marriage-advocating bigot like Phil Robertson gets to stay on the air on A&E of all places, while Chris Kluwe gets blacklisted from the NFL.


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