The Minnesota Vikings issued a statement on Thursday denying the allegation by former punter Chris Kluwe that he had been cut for his advocacy of same-sex marriage. The brief press release came hours after Deadspin published a first-person article by Kluwe titled "I Was An NFL Player Until I Was Fired By Two Cowards And A Bigot." In his scathing piece, Kluwe, the Vikings' punter from 2005 to 2012, wrote that he was "pretty confident" he was released in May 2013 due to his activism.
"Any notion that Chris was released from our football team due to his stance on marriage equality is entirely inaccurate and inconsistent with team policy," the statement from Vikings PR responded. "Chris was released strictly based on his football performance."
CLICK HERE to read full statement from Minnesota Vikings
In backing up his claim that politics, not performance, ended his long stint in Minnesota, Kluwe recounted his interactions with various members of the Vikings organization as he became an increasingly outspoken advocate for LGBT rights during the 2012 NFL season and worked with Minnesotans for Marriage Equality to defeat the Minnesota Gay Marriage Amendment. According to Kluwe, Vikings head coach Leslie Frazier, among those NFL coaches fired on Black Monday after the 2013 season, asked him to "stop speaking out on this stuff" and general manager Rick Spielman asked to him "fly under radar please" during his final 12 months with the team. Frazier and Spielman would be the "two cowards" referenced in the title of Kluwe's article for Deadspin. The "bigot" was special teams coordinator Mike Priefer. As recalled by Kluwe, his increased involvement in the fight for marriage equality coincided with Priefer beginning to make homophobic comments and becoming increasingly adversarial.
"It's my belief, based on everything that happened over the course of 2012, that I was fired by Mike Priefer, a bigot who didn't agree with the cause I was working for, and two cowards, Leslie Frazier and Rick Spielman, both of whom knew I was a good punter and would remain a good punter for the foreseeable future, as my numbers over my eight-year career had shown, but who lacked the fortitude to disagree with Mike Priefer on a touchy subject matter," wrote Kluwe.
CLICK HERE to read full article by Chris Kluwe
While denying Kluwe's claim that he had been released over his advocacy for equality, the Vikings' statement did indicate that the team would "thoroughly review" the matter and that "discrimination at any level" would not be tolerated. This phrasing would suggest that the team takes seriously the allegations against Priefer.
"As an organization, the Vikings consistently strive to create a supportive, respectful and accepting environment for all of our players, coaches and front office personnel. We do not tolerate discrimination at any level," said the Vikings statement.