Chris Kluwe takes a stand

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

Kluwe has agreed to be the centerpiece of a documentary on spinal cord injuries, which will be used to lobby for a state law adding a surcharge to driving violations to fund curative research. His day began at 10 a.m., climbing into a wheelchair from bed, then rolling to the Courage Center for weightlifting, followed by a trip to a specialty-care children's hospital.

Now he's sitting with a group of young men and women who are also in wheelchairs, but not by choice. Inevitably, the conversation turns to the topic of the gay marriage amendment.

"It's the same as discrimination," says Kluwe.

Former Viking Esera Tuoalo spent his entire career in the closet, coming out as gay after retirement.
courtesy of Esera Tuaolo
Former Viking Esera Tuoalo spent his entire career in the closet, coming out as gay after retirement.
Kluwe met his wife, Isabel, while attending UCLA
courtesy of the Kluwe family
Kluwe met his wife, Isabel, while attending UCLA

"I know it is!" the young woman concurs.

"Fifty years from now, our kids will be like, 'Why did we care about that?'" predicts Kluwe, a sci-fi aficionado. "'We gotta discriminate against the robots!'"

A punter's chances of actually sustaining the type of injury that would permanently confine him to a wheelchair are slim. But it's an illuminating exercise for a guy whose entire life has revolved around the excellence of his lower limbs.

The son of a doctor and a chemical engineer, Kluwe grew up in the affluent Southern California town of Seal Beach. Even as a kid, Kluwe excelled at sports — both as a baseball pitcher and a soccer goalie — and spent much of his adolescence trying to decide which one he'd rather go pro in.

"The kids didn't play football, because they were soccer and baseball players," says his mother, Sandy. "Why would you play football? I didn't think he knew the rules of the game, to be honest."

But the fall semester of Kluwe's freshman year at Los Alamitos high school, he decided to go out for football. A decade of pitching in baseball had caused an abnormal separation in the growth plate of his shoulder, so on the advice of an orthopedist, Kluwe tried out to be a kicker.

With a little practice, Kluwe's soccer-ball kicking skills translated well to booting the football. He attended a kicking camp the following summer, where the owners advised him that he could have a future in the sport.

"They told me that if I worked at it, I could pretty much almost guarantee I could get a college scholarship, and they said I'd have a pretty good shot at making it in the NFL," recalls Kluwe. "So I was like, 'Well, that seems like the greatest job ever, so I think I'll practice.'"

Kluwe's chance to prove himself came during his senior year at a playoff game against Loyola. With less than a minute to go, Loyola scored a field goal, putting them ahead by three points.

Los Alamitos got the ball back with 37 seconds to go. They started with a hook-and-ladder that bought them about 20 yards, then chucked a seven-yard pass and ran out of bounds to stop the clock on Loyola's 43-yard line.

The team figured they could either try a Hail Mary pass to the end zone or go for a near-impossible field goal, recalls Los Alamitos coach John Barnes. When Kluwe was sent in, the other team was so sure the kick was a fake that they called a timeout.

"I remember just saying, 'Hey, nobody's gonna expect you to make this, but don't miss it right or left. Kick it down the middle and see what you got,'" recalls Barnes. "And he boomed it."

The kick sailed 60 yards through the goal posts, breaking the league's playoff record for distance.

"The place went nuts," Barnes says. "They started chanting his name, 'Kluwe, Kluwe,' the whole next three or four minutes while we got prepared for overtime."

The team came back and won the game. Kluwe was named a USA Today "All-High School" player, and his last-second heroics would forever be legend in Los Alamitos.


"This is fucked up," Kluwe thought as he lay awake in bed one night in early September.

The source of his unrest was an article he'd found earlier that evening on Profootballtalk.com, an insider site he frequents for sports news. It was about a letter from Maryland Delegate Emmett C. Burns Jr. to Baltimore Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti regarding linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo, who had been appearing in ads advocating for gay marriage. Burns warned Bisciotti that it wasn't appropriate for a player to take such a controversial political position.

"I am requesting that you take the necessary action, as a National Football League Owner, to inhibit such expressions from your employees and that he be ordered to cease and desist such injurious actions," Burns wrote.

After about 20 minutes of tossing and turning, Kluwe sat in front of his computer and organized his thoughts into a rebuttal.

"I find it inconceivable that you are an elected official of Maryland's state government," it began. "Your vitriolic hatred and bigotry make me ashamed and disgusted to think that you are in any way responsible for shaping policy at any level."

Kluwe finished the letter in a little over an hour and sent it to Deadspin, where he'd been tapped as a semi-regular contributor. Then he went back to bed and slept like a baby.

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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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