One sports organization that seems to have the biggest problem with marriage equality is the NFL. I guess it’s because the sport is seen as a somewhat modern day gladiator match, men putting their bodies through the ringer in hopes of achieving a shiny trophy. Bigotry and bullying isn’t really anything new in the sports world as of late. Stories of teammate hazing in the NFL and using racial and gay slurs in the NBA all made the headlines last year. So Chris Kluwe, former Minnesota Vikings kicker, wrote an article in which he claims that a coach made homophobic comments in front of him and towards him once he openly began promoting marriage equality. The coach even requested that Kluwe stop supporting marriage equality. In the article, Kluwe recaps a year and half’s worth of events that led to the demise of his career in the NFL and his blacklisting from the league. Early in the summer of 2012, Kluwe was asked by the Minnesotans for Marriage Equality to help protest against a law that would ban same-sex marriage (the law has since been overturned). The Viking’s legal department told Kluwe that it would be OK for him to participate as long as he made it clear that he wasn’t representing the team, but acting as a private citizen. Kluwe accepted the opportunity and went on to speak about marriage equality to many other publications, radio interviews, and television specials.
It was only after Kluwe published a letter defending a fellow NFL player who supported marriage equality, did conflict with the Viking’s staff start. Head Coach Frazier had multiple conversations with Kluwe about his choice to speak out and even recommended he stop voicing his opinion so publicly. After a game the Minnesota Vikings owner Zygi Wilf approached Kluwe and commended him for his actions saying “I’m proud of what you’ve done. Please feel free to keep speaking out.” Kluwe felt like the oppositions to his support would surely stop if a team owner respected his choice to be so vocal. Unfortunately, they wouldn’t and during the football season Kluwe would find his work environment to be very difficult. Kluwe admits that while some teammates didn’t agree with his stance on same-sex marriage, no conversations became heated or abusive, they were always civil with one another. Special-teams coordinator Mike Priefer, however, didn’t hide how he felt about homosexuality. Kluwe claims that Priefer would say things like “We should round up all the gays, send them to an island, and then nuke it until it glows”, and how the bible prohibits such relationships. What is described is an extremely hostile work environment where it seems that Priefer was trying to offend Kluwe enough to make him quit the team. Eventually, the team let Kluwe go after serving eight years on the Vikings, even though he had a historically great season. After leaving the team, Kluwe found it to be extremely difficult to find another team to play for. Was his choice to speak openly about marriage equality to blame? Kluwe thinks so and that’s why after a year of leaving the team, he’s decided to come forward and share his story, as Priefer is now up for the role of head coach. The league is now investigating Kluwe’s claims and if they are found to be true, Priefer could lose his job or possibly just be fined. Kluwe ends his article with this thought:
“Some will ask if the NFL has a problem with institutionalized homophobia. I don’t think it does. I think there are homophobic people in the NFL, in all positions, but that’s true for society as well, and those people eventually get replaced. All we can do is try to expose their behavior when we see it and call them to account for their actions.” [source]