Kluwe allegations? Meh. Why doesn’t former Minnesota Vikings punter Chris Kluwe just quit all of his blathering about Special Teams Coach Mike Priefer and the gays? Kluwe had his time in the limielight, and it’s time for him to let it go already. With training camp just around the corner, it’s time to let the home team have a fresh start. The last thing the world needs is another lawsuit.
If you listen to sports talk radio, that’s the dominant vibe from diehard Vikings fans. Kluwe’s allegations are just a tiresome buzz-kill for them. They’re indifferent about the issue. For them, it’s all about “let’s play!”
If Kluwe is lying about Priefer, then the fans are right. Kluwe not only should shut up, he probably should get the Jesse Ventura treatment from Priefer.
But if Kluwe’s boss did ridicule and threaten Kluwe for championing civil rights, and wish genocide on a whole category of human beings, then Kluwe has a moral obligation to sue the Vikings to get the truth out.
At first blush, a Kluwe lawsuit may seem like a money grab. But Kluwe has said he will donate any lawsuit proceeds to LGBT rights groups.
At second blush, a lawsuit may seem punitive and petulant. But at this point, a lawsuit is really the only way the truth can be revealed. A lawsuit is the only way Kluwe can put former teammates under oath. It’s the only way he can compel them to tell “nothing but the truth” about what they heard Priefer say. That looks to be necessary, because these are people who would surely be scared to speak out about their current boss. After all, Priefer could release those players Kluwe-style, costing them millions of dollars. Talk about your inconvenient truths.
What’s the Big Deal?
So before an indifferent Vikings Nation rushes to cry “shut up and let’s play,” let’s step back and reflect for a moment. Here is what Kluwe alleges Priefer said:
Coach Frazier immediately told me that I “needed to be quiet, and stop speaking out on this stuff” (referring to my support for same-sex marriage rights). I told Coach Frazier that I felt it was the right thing to do (what with supporting equality and all), and I also told him that one of his main coaching points to us was to be “good men” and to “do the right thing.” He 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.” I repeated my stance that this was the right thing to do, that equality is not something to be denied anyone, and that I would not promise to cease speaking out. At that point, Coach Frazier told me in a flat voice, “If that’s what you feel you have to do,” and the meeting ended. The atmosphere was tense as I left the room.
Throughout the months of September, October, and November, Minnesota Vikings special-teams coordinator Mike Priefer would use homophobic language in my presence. 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.
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.
If that’s true, that’s not just rude or insensitive. It’s dehumanizing, abusive and bigoted. It’s unbecoming of a team representing Minnesota. More importantly, it’s the kind of verbal violence that, intended or not, feeds and rationalizes actual violence against gays and lesbians.
What if Priefer had ridiculed and threatened an employee who marched to champion equal rights for African Americans, women or Jews? Society wouldn’t tolerate that.
Imagine Priefer had said we should round up all the African Americans, women or Jews to be nuked. Again, that would not be met by shrugs from an indifferent news media, NFL and Vikings organization.
So why are so many seemingly indifferent about these allegations? We should be standing up against this bigotry, just as most of us would if African Americans, women or Jews were the target. As Hitler death camp survivor Elie Wiesel observed: “The opposite of hate is not love. It’s indifference.”
I’m not blind to the possibility that Kluwe could be lying. But if he is lying, I can’t believe he would sue, as he has promised he will do if the Vikings don’t release their internal investigation report. If Kluwe is lying, I would think he would quietly slink away. If Kluwe moves forward with a lawsuit, I’m much more inclined to believe he is probably telling the truth about Priefer’s outrageous behavior. After all, why would he put his former teammates on the stand if he knew the truth they would be compelled to tell — under threat of perjury charges — would show Kluwe to be a liar?
Viking Nation, I want to move on to football too. I want to see if Teddy can throw, Captain can cover the slot and Mike and Norv can coach. But as difficult as it may be for the face-painting crowd to grasp, some things are bigger than the game. Getting closure on these extremely ugly allegations is bigger than the game.