Kluwe vs Vikings (Why Everybody Here Loses)
May God bless Chris Kluwe for many of the good things that he has done in this world. He’s obviously not afraid to stand up for what he believes. He’s not fearful of pushing back against “the man” when he fears that social justices are in jeopardy. Still, he continually gets ravaged on the message boards, ridiculed on the social mediums and criticized in the papers. Why?
Chris will forever be remembered as an NFL punter and a social activist. One of those roles pays the bills a little bit better, but one of them is more important for humanity. This is the line that Chris continually blurred during this ordeal, and the point at which many of his supporters jumped right off his bandwagon.
Kluwe regularly fell into this trap during radio interviews, television appearances and phone conversations. Even in his own mind I truly believe that the line began to get blurred between social activism and crying over sour grapes. The common mindset became that he was no longer acting like a social activist but a petulant little kid. I had a personal experience of this in a phone conversation when Kluwe told me…
"[I’m fighting] for whoever the next activist is going to be. They, whoever they are, need to know that if they're fired for standing up for the right thing, they'll be able to fight it and win. Otherwise, money and power win again, and I'm not a fan of that."
And then the very next sentence went like this...
"Part of what goes on in the litigation will no doubt be proving that I still possess the physical capabilities to punt in the NFL, and that I haven't been given that chance. I'd be fine if I sucked, and was done. I'm honest enough with myself to admit when I'm bad at something. But I can still punt, and at the level an NFL team requires."
Even the LGBT community started to feel jilted by Kluwe as the allegations continued. An article by OutSports.com highlights these feelings.
“The real issue at hand here - whether the Vikings are an inherently homophobic institution that fires people because they support gay rights - is being lost, replaced by public barbs and accusations meant to hurt the other party, not help gay athletes… For Kluwe's part, I'm starting to think the longer this drags out the worse he looks, and the worse the LGBT sports movement suffers.”
And please, don’t even get me started on the whole Sandusky mocking situation that Kluwe initiated in the locker room by cutting a hole in the back of his pants to pretend he was a Penn State rape victim. This action was at the very least as offensive as those of Priefer. In my eyes, if you are taking part in creating an inappropriate locker room environment in ways like this, when you go complaining to the courts about the inappropriate environment that the Vikings have, you don’t have very many legs to stand on.
For what it’s worth, you will never hear me condone the actions of special teams coordinator Mike Priefer. What he said, whether in jest or deadly serious, was inappropriate. He also shouldn’t have lied about it the first few times. Sensitivity training and a little time to think about the situation will likely do him some good.
According to many people within the organization and within the league, Mike Priefer was one of the guys who was on the fast track to becoming a head coach. He has the attitude, the work ethic and the moxy that everybody is looking for in a head coach and because of this event, that dream at the NFL level is likely gone. This was the sole objective of Kluwe from the very beginning.
“If there's one thing I hope to achieve from sharing this story, it's to make sure that Mike Priefer never holds a coaching position again in the NFL, and ideally never coaches at any level.” -Deadspin.com
Kluwe has since backed off of that stance a little bit but only after the damage had been done.
What I can say from personal experience is this: Mike Priefer is a good man. Do good men have flaws? Yes. Do good men say things that are hurtful? Yes. Do good men make mistakes? Of course. But good men learn from their mistakes, they bury their head and keep working hard to become a better people. That seems to be what Priefer is doing going forward.
The LGBT Community
Still the minority in the American public, the LGBT community lost out on an opportunity here as well. Sure there will be awareness from this, sure there will be funds from the Vikings donated towards LGBT charities, but there was an opportunity here to get behind someone and rally to make big changes in the workplace. Unfortunately, as highlighted above, the ringleader started to lose focus and the entire ordeal became meaningless. Again from the same OutSports.com article.
“At this point, it has little to do with whether the NFL is a safe place for gay athletes and has everything to do with the bad blood that has boiled over between the punter and his former team. Kluwe wants vindication for being cut, the Vikings don't want to give him an inch.”
There was an opportunity here to bring change. We look at it now as nothing more than a missed opportunity.
The Minnesota Vikings
I’m not going to stand here and say that the Vikings are victims in this situation. Could they have done something behind the scenes and handled this situation a little differently, sure. But in the discussion of how everybody loses here, the Vikings are surely in the mix.
Throughout the process of the investigation and allegations, there was some dirty laundry aired on behalf of the Vikings. Some things were minor and will be quickly forgotten, but others, particularly those that rose up the chain of command a little bit, will be remembered and likely addressed going forward.
There are much more important things at stake here, but the reputation of the team was hurt as well.
If these reports are true, and this entire ordeal comes to a close this week with the official announcement of a settlement deal, the very best thing we can do is to put this whole thing behind us and forget about it completely.
Keep fighting for what’s right, but don’t use this as an example. Keep striving to make institutional changes, but learn from the mistakes made here. More than anything, keep trying to become better people. Humans are inherently flawed and unfortunately the actions that stem from those flaws put us in some pretty bad situations. Let’s just try to be better.
After reading through the article for himself, Chris Kluwe joined the conversation with the following tweet...
"@AjKFAN Maybe you should wait for the settlement details before writing a recap? Just a thought."
Well now my interest has been piqued! Kluwe is right on one thing, it will be interesting to see what the settlement terms are. Still, I don't see anybody coming out on top.