Chris Kluwe takes a stand

Vikings punter pries open the last closet in America: major league sports

Chris Kluwe takes a stand
Photo by Tony Nelson; hair and makeup by Nicole Fae

Walking across the Macalester College campus, Chris Kluwe passes unnoticed. As usual, the 30-year-old Vikings punter is dressed down: a pair of brown flip-flops, black basketball shorts, and a baggy zip-up sweatshirt. A backward World of Warcraft hat pins back his shaggy brown surfer haircut, a giveaway to the Southern California boy's roots on this cool autumn afternoon in Minnesota.

Kluwe climbs a staircase to the second floor of a glass building, where an LGBT group called "No H8" — an offshoot of the campaign against California's Proposition 8 — holds a promotional photo shoot. No one is expecting him.

"Are you here to have your picture taken?" a woman asks as Kluwe approaches the check-in.

Minnesota Vikings punter Chris Kluwe, October 2012
Tony Nelson
Minnesota Vikings punter Chris Kluwe, October 2012
Growing up in Orange County, Kluwe dreamed of being a professional baseball player.
courtesy of the Kluwe family
Growing up in Orange County, Kluwe dreamed of being a professional baseball player.

He nods modestly. "I'm Chris Kluwe, by the way."

"Oh, Chris Warcraft!" she swoons, calling him by his well-followed Twitter handle. "I could fall over!"

Kluwe demurs bashfully, somewhere between cool and uncomfortable.

Two young photographers whisk him away to a white backdrop and toss him a plain v-neck. Kluwe peels off his sweatshirt and an anime T-shirt, exposing his muscular torso, the product of a workout he calls "Operation Adrian Abs" after the Vikings running back. The photographers stamp his cheek with a "No H8" logo, slap a strip of duct tape over his mouth, and begin posing him: Cross your arms. Now hold them out like this.

As word of Kluwe's identity spreads, the shoot becomes a spectacle. A dozen students gawk, whispering to each other and snapping pictures with their camera phones. By the time Kluwe changes back into his own clothes, a line of more than 30 onlookers has formed behind him.

"More pictures?" he says, and poses with every one of them, including the two photographers working the event.

"Thank you for what you're doing," one says, as Kluwe heads for the door. "It means so much to so many people."


Though homophobia is far from extinct, the tide of public opinion seems to pull inexorably against bigotry. Last year, Congress repealed Don't Ask, Don't Tell, allowing gays and lesbians to openly serve in the military. Following a string of highly publicized suicides, schools across the country finally got the message and began taking an aggressive stance against gay bullying.

Yet in 2012, none of the four major American sports have ever seen an active, openly gay player. This is why major league sports are often regarded as America's last closet.

"During the times when I played, if I would have came out, I felt like I would have been hurt," says Esera Tuaolo, a former Vikings player who came out publicly in 2002, after retiring a few years earlier. "You talk about bounties in New Orleans. How much do you think it would cost to take the gay guy out? To take the fag out?"

But in Minnesota's near-deadlocked vote to constitutionally define marriage as between a man and a woman, Vikings punter Chris Kluwe has emerged as the unlikely spokesman for Vote No.

"He's going to save it for us, I swear it to you," says Tracy Call, founder of Minnesotans for Equality. "And it's going to be him alone."

Having no background in politics, Kluwe sneaked into the fight through the back door after writing a passionate and colorfully vulgar letter laying out his support of gay marriage, in the process telling a Maryland legislator that gays getting married wouldn't transform him into a "lustful cock monster." The letter blew up on Deadspin with millions of views, and hurled Kluwe into the national spotlight as football's most aggressive straight ally to the gay rights movement.

"I teared up," says Tuaolo. "For me, it was like Martin Luther King's 'I Have a Dream' speech."

In early October, Kluwe's celebrity in the gay community crystallized when he appeared shirtless in a provocative cover story for Out Magazine, which heralded Kluwe as the "unlikely face of Marriage Equality." The Maryland Legislature recently awarded him an official citation for his "work in standing up for the equality of all." And the New York Times even flew a reporter out to Minnesota to profile Kluwe.

Beyond the gay marriage debate, Kluwe's defense of same-sex rights is further evidence that the culture in major league sports is finally changing, says Dan Woog, author of Jocks: True Stories of America's Gay Male Athletes.

"For a long time, I equated sports and the military as sort of the two last bastions where it was okay to be anti-gay," says Woog. "The military is now doing fine with the repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell, and I think sports is headed there."


On a Tuesday afternoon, Kluwe is in a place no punter wants to be: a wheelchair. As he shovels chips and salsa into his mouth, Tiffiny Carlson, a bubbly blond quadriplegic woman across the table, wants to know what he'd do if football was no longer an option.

"Open a table-top miniature store in Southern California," he answers without hesitation.

"Really?" she asks, tickled. "I never thought you'd be into that!"

"I'm a huge nerd," he concedes, paying no regard to the boom mic hovering above or the two cameramen circling like vultures.

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24 comments
gatesac
gatesac

Chris is courageous man for coming to the defense of LGTB community for the sake of equal rights for all.

Chris, you are my hero.

BillJungbauer
BillJungbauer

The marriage amendment should never have been placed on the ballot. Our legislature would have done much better defining how it would recognize a contract between any two adults, despite what sex they are, and leaving marriage to the churches. Let each individual church marry who they wish and keep government and religion separate.

BillJungbauer
BillJungbauer

I'm a Republican. I served as state vice chair of the MNGOP for three years. I spent those three years defending liberty on the state committee. IMHO, it is a terrible waste of time for our legislature to have bothered us with this issue. Instead of reducing the size of government and taxes, they decided to build a stadium for a billionaire and attempt to deny liberties to productive people of our society. No where in our Constitution is there a line defending the liberties of some, but not of others. Again, in my opinion, a constitutional amendment should do one of two things, limit government or define personal liberties. The marriage amendment does neither. Barry Goldwater once said "The religious factions that are growing throughout our land are not using their religious clout with wisdom.... I'm frankly sick and tired of the political preachers across this country telling me as a citizen that if I want to be a moral person, I must believe in 'A,' 'B,' 'C,' and 'D.' Just who do they think they are?... I will fight them every step of the way if they try to dictate their moral convictions to all Americans in the name of "conservatism." Ben Franklin's brother was a printer who was getting himself thrown in jail on a regular basis. His crime was speaking out against the relationship between the church and government. Ben learned how to speak against such a relationship without getting into trouble. Because of his efforts we have a republic built on laws that protect the smallest of all minorities. The individual.  The maraig amendment should never have been 

forhissake
forhissake

really kluwe does not see what will result from gay marriage being voted in has he never heard of pandoras box? You know had fads start and fashion trends take hold ahhhhhh-dah. Not trying to be demeaning but just because it gives you a warm and fuzzy feeling thinking you voicing your opinion equalling live and let live it still will influence generations to come and not positively. i believe voting for gay marriage is totally irresponsible and totally selfish the impact will be widespread and devestating to children. NOT TO MENTION THAT IT IS AGAINST GOD'S LAW. It seems as if we have traded in the belief IN GOD WE TRUST for we can redefine whatever we will. Read the bible and you will understand that all the commercials are twisting concepts/words and the consitution to confuse people. THE TRUTH IS THE TRUTH,,,,,

forhissake,,,,,,,,    

k2yeb
k2yeb topcommenter

Seriously.....when will this guy stop acting like he knows it all. He sounded arrogant when he was on 93x.....I agree gays should get married but jeez dude....he is about as one sided as it gets. Why do people think extremes on either side are good for America. Its about the middle....not the trendy left or rich right. 

jinxmchue
jinxmchue

Kluwe reminds me of Joey on "Friends" trying to play a 19-year-old: youtube. com/watch?v=9mrZ16-wuWc

ron.neuman
ron.neuman

If he doesn't take his day job a little more serious , he will be EX viking punter that talked to much instead of doing the job he was hired to do, KICK THE BALL  (over 30 yards please)

mingtran
mingtran topcommenter

He's definitely getting people to think. Hopefully it translate to opening up of minds on myriad other issues as well.

Brad Michael
Brad Michael

He is truly changing the landscape when it comes to this issue!

AkselLeth
AkselLeth

@citypages @chriswarcraft woah. Warms the heart of a European, but also kinda scares me that it's stil such an issue over there! #salute

AtheistColitis
AtheistColitis

@citypages @ChrisWarcraft Fucking. Amazing. Where can I get a Lustful Cockmonster shirt, Chris?

DeadLeaFMoth
DeadLeaFMoth

@panopticon13 @ChrisWarcraft @AndrewMannix @citypages Frank in your icon is a win. Been a while since I looked at anything Jim Woodring.

Katie Starks
Katie Starks

People Magazine needs to make him the sexiest man alive, inside and out that is.

jinxmchue
jinxmchue

 @mingtran Gee, I didn't know calling people vulgar names counted as "getting people to think."

jinxmchue
jinxmchue

 @womanphoenix I mean Joey, the guy who was an idiot who thought that as a 30-year-old he could play a 19-year-old.  Kluwe acts and dresses like Joey in the clip I cited -- i.e. like a child instead of a man.

jinxmchue
jinxmchue

 @womanphoenix  I don't hate gays and have never used vulgar names against them.  For full disclosure, though, I have occasionally cited the vulgar names they've used for themselves, but have never used them in a derogatory way against anyone gay or straight..

 
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