On Tuesday, Chris Kluwe appeared live on the FOX Sports 1 Network to discuss his claims against the Vikings stemming from a scathing column he wrote on the website Deadspin in which he referred to Mike Priefer as a bigot and Rick Spielman and Leslie Frazier as cowards.
It won’t be the last time you will see Kluwe being interviewed. Just as he referred to members of the Vikings organization as one bigot and two cowards, perhaps there are words that can be applied to Kluwe.
“Agitator” and “Publicity Seeker” come immediately to mind.
“Agitator” is a word I learned from my high school principal. When it was used, it was directed at me by him. I know from where I speak. With the benefit of hindsight, I have learned he was accurate in that assessment. If a cherry bomb went off in a toilet, one of his first objectives was to locate the whereabouts of a handful of “usual suspects” that might have participated in such nefarious hijinks. I would learn over adult beverages with him years later that he viewed me as the middle finger in that handful. I was actually a little proud of that classification, but his point was obvious.
In his world as a high school principal, I was Osama bin Johnan. I was a distraction. Where he tried to regiment order and civility as the full-mane lion of the building, I was the persistent thorn in his paw. I typically had others do my bidding when it came to centerfold photos being taped to a map of Europe or fingerprints that could potentially be lifted from a fire alarm, but my principal had an adversarial approach to me that I was clueless to its depth. I was, in his words, an agitator.
So was Kluwe. He loved to be alternative. He relished in being different. Eventually, that got noticed by the local media. Suddenly, he became a non-football celebrity.
Initially, Kluwe raised an eyebrow from the ink-stained wretches that cover the team on a regular basis. Suddenly, he became fodder for the local media grist in its varied forms. He was “slow news day” news with his esoteric rants. Next came the flurry of stories surrounding his garage band Tripping Icarus.
Kluwe was attracted to being alternative within the otherwise regimented world of the NFL. He was quick to point out that he had a life outside of Winter Park. That life is 24/7/365 these days. When Gomer Pyle met Shaggy, chaos ensued. He became the eighth or ninth Kardashian. He found the spotlight and he liked it. A lot.
Social media provided Kluwe an outlet to deliver his manifesto of the viability of sparkleponies. He was an agitator who became a publicity seeker. His stick figure erase board indictment of the NFL’s treatment of punters went modestly viral. If there was a topic, he had an opinion – a very decided opinion. He started his bridge-burning by responding to those who criticized his view – with a mix of intelligence and vulgarity that often doomed his contention to failure. A legitimate view got lost in a flurry of F-bombs.
Just as I perked the ears of my principal by the mere mention of my name, Kluwe similarly carved his own reputation with the Vikings front office. Was he a loose cannon? No question. In the “here today, gone 20 minutes from now” world we live in, Kluwe was a go-to quote guy. It can be argued no punter in the NFL was quoted as often as Kluwe. He loved it. He basked in it. Eventually, it bit him in the butt – and wasn’t like those quoting him didn’t know it was coming. It was self-fulfilling.
To believe Kluwe’s current thesis, one has to believe the Vikings decision-makers were prejudiced against strong Christian family men like Ryan Longwell because they cut him, too. Does that make sense? No. What does make sense is that they found a player they could draft at a fraction of the cost to do similar or better work. It was business. Undue attention was brought on a team trying to make the playoffs. It was all business. It was a distraction. No more. No less.
Kluwe has a recidivist rap sheet of being both an agitator and an attention seeker – a provocateur, if you will. When he spoke out in favor of a Minnesota election ballot question on the viability of same-sex marriage, agitator and publicity seeker held their own civil ceremony. To that point, the LGBT alliance in Minnesota didn’t have a face (a.k.a. public mouthpiece) to articulate its cause. Kluwe became that face … and most certainly its mouthpiece.
From the outset, my biggest problem with his advocacy was that he didn’t represent the group. From my view, he may as well have jumped into the middle of the Travon Martin-George Zimmerman debate. I cast a ballot of favor of marriage equality, but I wouldn’t even consider being a poster boy for a cause. I’m not a club member. In his mind, perhaps Kluwe thought he was having a “Tiananmen Square” moment, but, in the end, the LBGT cause latched onto Kluwe out of necessity. The Vikings didn’t have to keep him out of necessity.
Before the same-sex marriage issue in Minnesota was something that worked its way behind the iron curtain of Winter Park, I had seen enough of the latest season of “Keeping Up With the Kluwes.” If I was a coach or a G.M., I would have found another option. He was a distraction. He was an agitator. He became a publicity seeker. The confluence of those three rivers wasn’t good. If you were to put a smelly Saturday beat writer on Hour 56 of a 73-hour workweek when the TV screen flashed “The Pick Is In” followed by “P Jeff Locke, UCLA” the reality set in. Kluwe’s gone.
The same was said a year earlier, when the TV screen flashed “PK Blair Walsh, Georgia.” Longwell was gone. It’s not personal. It’s business.
With the lack of a balanced discussion on the issue of Kluwe’s release currently available, he is now the Pariah Of the Month. He’s trying to pull back the curtain on a locker room he never fully understood, despite his wealth of “book smarts.”
Over the coming weeks and months, Kluwe is going to bask in the spotlight. He’ll get asked to speak on behalf of a group he doesn’t actually represent. He’s not Rosa Parks. He was a thorn in the paw of a business that used a draft pick to replace him – no small feat in the NFL. Most teams don’t. The Vikings did.
In Wednesday’s FOX Sports 1 appearance, Kluwe said he was backing off his claims that Priefer should never coach again. In something akin to Charles Barkley claiming his was misquoted in his own autobiography, Kluwe had the following to say about his comments on Priefer.
“After examining my comments and upon reflection, I may have been a little too harsh originally,” Kluwe said.
Considering Kluwe claimed in his Deadspin manifesto that he is chronicling his saga from early May 2013, how many times do you suppose he read, re-read, edited, polished, re-read, altered, re-read, had someone else look at it, re-read, edited and gave it one last look-see before hitting “Send” to an attachment heading Deadpin’s way? Upon reflection? Really?
Undaunted, during the interview, Kluwe went on to be the public judge and jury concerning Priefer – branding him as guilty by saying that, if he gets his head together, he can come back to the NFL … eventually.
“The NFL loves a redemption story and, actually, it really would be a good redemption story,” Kluwe said. “If Mike Priefer can legitimately change, if he can recognize why his words were harmful, then he’s a very good role model and a very good lesson for other people.”
Not willing to let it lay there, Kluwe channeled Dr. Phil, Judge Judy and that clown sheriff from Arizona by prescribing a solution to his perceived path to redemption for Priefer.
“I’d like to see him get some therapy and get some counseling,” Kluwe said. “Then, ideally work with some at-risk LBGT youths and understand that these are the people you are talking about. These are the people – their lives are suffering.”
The reporter in charge asked what was likely a prompted earpiece request from a contrarian in the control booth to ask whether Priefer had to the right to express his opinion – in the end, right or wrong depending on one’s point of view – Kluwe made the statement that might be repeated in court if it comes to that.
“Everyone’s entitled to their own opinion,” Kluwe said. “But we’re also entitled to the consequences of our opinions.”
To steal a phrase from two Texans, one of them being a former teammate, “the bottom line” is that Kluwe’s exodus from the NFL was of his own doing. He wasn’t blackballed. If he could bomb punts like Ray Guy, he’d have a job.
Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.