Last week, former Minnesota Vikings punter Chris Kluwe posted an article on Deadspin which recounted the trials and tribulations he encountered during the 2012 NFL season. But they had nothing to do with football—at least they shouldn’t have had anything to do with football.
Kluwe, while a fairly respectable punter for the Vikings for eight seasons, is most famous for his very public support of gay marriage. He has publicly supported same-sex marriage in Minnesota and went so far as to berate Maryland delegate Emmett C. Burns Jr. for “trampling the free-speech rights of Baltimore Ravens linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo,” who had himself spoken out in favor of a Maryland ballot initiative that would legalize gay marriage. Considering he was a punter—not the “manliest” of positions on a team—it took some serious gonads to be so outspoken about equality, but it also came with some serious repercussions.
In the article, Kluwe tells a story about butting heads with his special teams coach, Mike Priefer, who, if the narrative is accurate, evolved from a tight-lipped dissenter to an antagonistic homophobic asshole over the course of the season, and who was most likely responsible for Kluwe’s release from the team after that season.
Now you can read the story and decide for yourself if you think Kluwe was fairly or unfairly let go (he does mention his recent surgery and his age/salary red flags), but it’s worth checking out just to see what goes on behind the NFL curtain. In Kluwe’s tale, we’re able to see exactly how much of a House of Cards a professional football team really is. There’s a hollow figurehead (the team owner), a few complicit-but-not-guilty bystanders (the head coach and general manager), an ever-present PR machine, and more than a few knives hidden discretely behind backs.
It would actually be enthralling theater if it wasn’t so damn infuriating.