How an NFL Punter Let Low Lifes Ruin a Career

What you have to understand about Chris Kluwe, NFL has-been, is that he was a much better punter before he was a social-media rabble rouser. Hang time, minimum return yardage, fair catches, directional punting, balls inside the 20 and out of bounds — his performance level for the Minnesota Vikings was much more reliable between 2007 and 2010. A sports editor in St. Paul, recognizing Kluwe’s wit and outspoken nature, originally lit the grenade by asking him to write for the newspaper and its web site.

A monster was born.

And a fine punting career gradually died, as Kluwe became immersed in social causes, media attention and long-winded missives on a trashier web site, one run by disenfranchised stoners making 10 cents an hour.

That site, Deadspin.com, strategically planned Kluwe’s latest salvo for the first working day of the new year. That’s what these morons do for their homeless-type lifestyles — plot stories for “hot” days that might earn them some digital traffic from fellow losers in life, regardless of whether the stories are accurate and without any thought of corroborating those stories via additional reporting. Among accusations in his piece, which I’d have preferred to read in a more credible publication after he was cut last April, Kluwe said the Vikings unloaded him because of his gay-rights activism. No, Chris, they dumped you because you weren’t exactly Ray Guy at the end, and also because you were 31 and didn’t cost the Vikings a salary-cap cent with your departure. As we’ve seen with the remarkable advancement of the field-goal-kicking craft, specialization demands near-perfection in today’s NFL. A conspiracy, this was not.

As the trashy web site might say, Kluwe sucked like a truck-stop whore.

Yet in his story, titled “I was an NFL player until I was fired by two cowards and a bigot,” Kluwe said he was targeted into job oblivion by Vikings special teams coordinator Mike Priefer. It’s true Priefer was tiring of Kluwe, wondering during a December playoff run why he was wearing a “Vote Ray Guy” jacket patch as a way of lobbying for punters and the Hall of Fame. “Those distractions are getting old for me, to be quite honest with you,” Priefer told the media then. “Do I think Ray Guy deserves to be in the Hall of Fame? Absolutely. But there’s other ways of going about doing it, in my opinion. … He’s got to focus on punting and holding.”

Considering the Vikings were paying him a healthy salary as an eight-year veteran, yes, it’s understandable why a position coach would want optimum perfornance from a slumping punter distracted by outside activities. But Kluwe insists he was the victim, saying Priefer frequently criticized him during the 2012 season for his supportive views of same-sex marriage. And tensions exploded, Kluwe alleges in the piece, when Priefer supposedly said in a November team meeting that “we should round up all the gays, send them to an island and nuke it until it glows.”

The first thing I’d have asked Kluwe, as a reputable editor inspecting the piece, is whether he had a tape recorder during the meeting. Did he have proof that Priefer said it? Did he write it down? If so, does he have the sheet of paper? The next thing I would do, as a reputable editor, would be to contact Priefer, ask him if he said it and publish his response inside Kluwe’s piece. But Deadspin editors took none of those responsible steps because they are scumsuckers who crave traffic like heroin, so the British bum who runs the site can attract attention from other media, lie about his traffic numbers and maybe pawn his piece of crap to Yahoo if he gets one of their money people drunk some night.

Priefer released a statement, strongly denying that he ever made the comment. “I want to be clear that I do not tolerate discrimination of any type and am respectful of all individuals,” Priefer said. “I personally have gay family members who I love and support just as I do any family member. … The comments today have not only attacked my character and insulted my professionalism, but they have also impacted my family. While my career focus is to be a great professional football coach, my number one priority has always been to be a protective husband and father to my wife and children. …”

We could call this a he-said, he-said and let the story evaporate. But I won’t do that because several Vikings players have emerged in strong support of Priefer and the two men Kluwe described as “cowards,” Vikings general manager Rick Spielman and recently fired coach Leslie Frazier. Kicker Blair Walsh, who would have been in that meeting room for any Priefer rant in 2012, defended his position coach in a statement to the media.

“I have been a member of the Minnesota Vikings for 2 years. I want to start off by saying I have the utmost respect for Rick Spielman, Leslie Frazier and Mike Priefer. All three are good men,” Walsh wrote.

“I have had countless conversations and interactions with Coach Priefer, and I personally can attest to his integrity and character. His professionalism in the workplace is exemplary, and I firmly believe that my teammates would whole-heartedly agree. The allegations made today are reprehensible and totally not compatible with what Mike Priefer stands for.

“As we all know, in the NFL you must perform at the highest level and meet the performance expectations of your coaches, management, and ownership. If these expectations, based upon past performance AND future potential for excellence, are not met, your NFL career with that team, is over. I believe this was the case with Chris, and it is unfair to think that his release was anything other than football related.

“In my time here at Minnesota, Rick Spielman and Leslie Frazier have exemplified true leadership. Contrary to Chris’ statements, they have promoted a workplace environment that was conducive for success. At no time did I ever feel suppressed or that I could not be myself.

“I firmly stand behind Rick Spielman, Leslie Frazier, and Mike Priefer.”

In short, Walsh is calling Kluwe a liar and saying he made the whole thing up, which also describes what Deadspin does.

Kluwe said his views were supported in the past by Vikings owner Zygi Wilf and his wife. Wilf signed off on this statement to the media about Kluwe’s piece: “The Minnesota Vikings were made aware of Chris Kluwe’s allegations for the first time today. We take them very seriously and will thoroughly review this matter.

“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.

“The team has long respected our players’ and associates’ individual rights, and, as Chris specifically stated, Vikings ownership supports and promotes tolerance, including on the subject of marriage equality. Because he was identified with the Vikings, Chris was asked to be respectful while expressing his opinions. Team ownership and management also repeatedly emphasized to Chris that the Vikings would not impinge on his right to express his views.

“Any notion that Chris was released from our team due to his stance on marriage equality is entirely inaccurate and inconsistent with team policy. Chris was released strictly based on his football performance.”

The Vikings have a responsibility to investigate the culture within, just as the Miami Dolphins were forced to scrutinize their locker-room culture after Jonathan Martin alleged that teammate Richie Incognito bullied him with racial slurs and other forms of abuse. But the difference here is that Martin took the proper channels and contacted the NFL and NFL Players Association.

Chris Kluwe, as he has for a few years now, took his views to a trashy web site. He got high on the attention from social media and interest from TV news shows, all astounded that a high-priced athlete would stoop to a blogger’s level by ripping the sports system that made him wealthy.

In doing so, however, he let the adrenaline rush muddle his priorities, allowing a successful football career to end for all the wrong reasons because he got caught up with all the wrong creeps.

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