Chris Kluwe takes a stand

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

When Kluwe looked at his phone the next afternoon, it was exploding with notifications from his Twitter account.

"I'll never forget it," Kluwe says. "I kept track of the negative replies. There were probably about six of about 6,000 responses on Twitter in that first day. It was overwhelmingly positive."

Burns quickly walked back his statements a couple of days later, conceding in an interview with the Baltimore Sun that Ayanbadejo "has his First Amendment rights."

Kluwe participated in a promotional photo shoot for "No H8," an offshoot of the campaign against California's Proposition 8.
Joe Bielawa
Kluwe participated in a promotional photo shoot for "No H8," an offshoot of the campaign against California's Proposition 8.
The punter spent a day in a wheelchair earlier this month for a documentary on spinal-cord injuries, ending with Kluwe scrimmaging against a wheelchair rugby team in Moundsview
Tony Nelson
The punter spent a day in a wheelchair earlier this month for a documentary on spinal-cord injuries, ending with Kluwe scrimmaging against a wheelchair rugby team in Moundsview

But it was too late. Kluwe's letter went viral, and he suddenly had a national audience for his campaign in favor of gay marriage. Minnesota will be one of four states facing some variation of a marriage vote this November. Based on how these races have played out around the country, the odds are against same-sex marriage advocates, says Matt Barreto, political science professor and poll director at the University of Washington.

"It could happen, because nationally we know public opinion is moving more and more in favor of same-sex rights," says Barreto. "But historically, if we look at the data, it doesn't look good for these initiatives in other states."

Though the polls in Minnesota show a close race, the outlook for gay-marriage supporters might be bleaker than it appears, says Bill Hillsman, a political consultant best known for his work on Sen. Paul Wellstone's campaign. "I think there's a lot of people in the state, especially Democrats, who may say one thing about what they're going to do on this particular issue, and then do something else."

To defeat the amendment, it won't be enough to simply piggyback on Obama and Amy Klobuchar votes, Hillsman says. Gay marriage groups will have to aggressively pull votes from independents and moderate conservatives. Even with a professional football player on their side, Hillsman is pessimistic the amendment's opponents will be able to sway enough voters, but he believes Kluwe is making an impact.

"I think what Chris Kluwe has done is opened up a potential audience that otherwise wasn't even on the radar," says Hillsman. "That audience, I would submit, is younger, it's male, and they probably don't really care that much about this issue."

And in a race that's been viciously politicized, Kluwe has managed to break through the static with both his status as a professional athlete and the colorful language he used in the letter, says Larry Jacobs, a political science professor at the University of Minnesota.

"You kind of expect your Democrats or Republicans to stand up with a bazooka and blow away your opponent," says Jacobs. "That's what kind of made this special. We've kind of been shaken awake by Chris Kluwe's first barrage and how eloquent and powerful he was."


Thirty minutes outside Minneapolis, in a spacious but modest suburban house, Kluwe takes a seat in his near-empty living room. Now that their oldest daughter is ready to start school, Kluwe and his wife are selling their Minnesota home, moving their permanent residence back to Southern California.

In the meantime, only the essentials remain: a few video games, two laptops — one for writing, the other for gaming — and a bookshelf filled with mostly science fiction: Isaac Asimov, Kurt Vonnegut, and Warren Ellis.

"I read super fast," says Kluwe, who got a perfect score on the verbal portion of the SAT. "Usually a 300-page book will take me about two and a half, three hours to go through. That helped me out a lot in school, because I didn't go to class, and the night before the test I'd be like, 'Oh, I'm going to read the textbook.'"

Though Kluwe is now the spokesman for a liberal cause, he doesn't consider himself a Democrat. He favors neither Obama nor Romney, and describes the presidential race as a contest to kiss the ass of the most billionaire donors, rather than the battle of ideas it purports to be. If Kluwe had to label himself, he'd say libertarian, but that doesn't quite sum it up either.

"My ideal world is one where we don't need a government, because people treat each other the way they want to be treated," Kluwe says. "But until we fix human nature, that's probably not going to happen."

Kluwe says he doesn't see the issue of gay marriage as political. His philosophy on the subject goes back to the Golden Rule, and he believes an amendment that would constitutionally criminalize same-sex marriage amounts to institutionalized segregation.

"You see all these arguments against gay marriage, and they all kind of logically boil down to: 'It makes me feel icky,'" says Kluwe. "That's not a valid logical argument! Like, tell me that gay people getting married is going to cause someone to steal your garage door opener, or it's going to cause your dog to poop in your front yard. I can argue against that!"

Kluwe isn't the only NFL player to enter the public discourse on gay rights. In 1975, three years after retiring from the Green Bay Packers, David Kopay became the first NFL player to publicly come out of the closet. Though he believed he was a prime candidate for a coaching spot, Kopay was turned down by the NFL and instead spent his life after football as a salesman for a floor-covering business. Kopay later said he thought he'd been shunned by the league for his sexual orientation.

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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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