On Wednesday, former Minnesota Vikings and Oakland Raiders punter Chris Kluwe caused waves with a piece he wrote for Deadspin. In it, Kluwe asserts a strong belief that his tenure as punter for the Vikings was cut short because he came out strongly in favor of defending marriage equality in Minnesota.
For the most part, those who agree with Kluwe’s stance on LGBT rights loved the piece while those who disagreed with his stance despised the piece. But there were also those who agree with Kluwe’s fight for equality but find him to be self-righteous and more concerned with keeping his own name in the news than he is with defending LGBT rights.
This is somewhat understandable. Kluwe has never shied away from the spotlight and now that it appears he will not be picked up by another NFL team, there is motive to be bitter about that fact. Some also believe that Kluwe is simply wrong for believing his actions had anything to do with his being released by the Vikings. Here are the issues that I have with these complaints.
With regards to Kluwe and whether he is an attention-seeker, he very well may be. But even if he is, that does not lessen the significance of what he has to say.
Obviously none of us will ever know exactly what happened in the Vikings locker room between Kluwe and special teams coach Mike Priefer, but I for one am more inclined to believe Kluwe than not and here is why.
I am an attorney who works in employment discrimination law and have worked as an investigator for the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the Federal agency tasked with enforcing laws against discrimination in the workplace. I can guarantee 100% that this kind of harassment takes place all the time. Not because I have heard it from victims like Kluwe, but because I have heard it from the people perpetrating the harassment who in a fit of pride or defiance have openly admitted to me that they were intentionally discriminating.
What Kluwe had to say about what happened with the Vikings was all too familiar. It is a very common form of harassment that still prevails in many workplaces today. Not just against members of the LGBT community, but minorities, women, older persons, certain religious affiliations and even women who are pregnant. This form of intimidation in the workplace is the reason anti-discrimination laws are applied to private workplaces and not just government ones.
But I believe it for more than just because I have seen this type of behavior. It’s also because Kluwe would make an excellent witness.
When judging whether or not a witness is credible, there are a number of factors to consider. But the single most important factor in determining whether or not to believe a witness comes down to the most basic elements of human nature.
Anytime a witness says something that works against their own interest, that is a very good sign they are telling the truth.
While it is true that Kluwe could and did receive a lot of attention for this, it’s not like he was lacking attention and needed to act out. He has a rather popular book that has resulted in a large number of radio interviews, including in the Bay Area. He is a fairly popular Twitter personality and has been invited to write for Peter King’s Monday Morning Quarterback — he does not need to create a fantastic story in order to get his writing published by a reputable source.
Kluwe had a whole lot more to lose from writing that piece than he had to gain.
First and foremost, there is a significant chance that Kluwe gets sued over this. Kluwe does not just claim he feels as though he has been wronged, he flat out calls Priefer a bigot and attributes some incredibly incendiary comments to him.
That is what those in the ambulance-chasing business call “defamation of character.” Whether it’s by the Vikings organization or by Preifer himself, I would not at all be surprised if Kluwe has already received threatening letters from blood-sucking attorneys.
Aside from that, as Kluwe himself points out, writing the piece essentially guaranteed that he will never play in the NFL again. While Kluwe was not an amazing punter, he was a very good one. Because of the fact that I have been very intrigued by Marquette King since he first tried out for the Raiders, I paid very close attention to the competition between King and Kluwe.
It was easily the closest competition in the entire Raiders roster and went down to the wire. It was so close, Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie kept both punters on the roster past the 53-man roster cut deadline, something that is unheard of. In fact, it was rumored that McKenzie was so impressed with the two that he tried trading one. In fact, had Kluwe not helped King, there is a good chance he’d be the Raiders punter right now.
Kluwe may not have been great, but I would not have been surprised to see him with a team in training camp next season and possibly playing during the regular season. No chance that happens now.
When the Vikings drafted a punter in the fifth round, they did so to replace Kluwe. Teams don’t spend a fifth round pick on a punter unless they intend to use that punter the following season.
Furthermore, teams do not expend draft picks on punters unless their current punter is a serious liability. Even then, there has to be a really talented guy to justify using a draft pick and not waiting to sign someone as an undrafted free agent. That was not the case with Kluwe. As is noted by the competition we saw in Oakland, Kluwe was far from being a liability.
We can never know for sure what happened in Minnesota, but taking a look at what information that’s currently available (including an adamant denial by Preifer), I have a hard time believing Kluwe is doing anything other than telling the truth.
Like him or not, full of himself or not, what Kluwe has done is no small thing. Perhaps he’s not an ideal spokesperson for a cause because of the fact that he may enjoy the spotlight too much, but just because he enjoys attention doesn’t necessarily mean he doesn’t deserve it.