Chris Kluwe takes a stand

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

Though the NFL wasn't ready for him, Kopay was an early revolutionary in the fight for equality in professional sports. He went on to become a board member of the Gay and Lesbian Athletics Foundation, and an ambassador of the Federation of Gay Games. In 1986, he revealed a relationship with a former Washington Redskins player who died — still closeted — of AIDS that year, sending a message to other gay athletes that they weren't alone.

"That was groundbreaking," says Jose Guillermo De Los Reyes-Heredia, professor of sexuality studies for the University of Houston, of Kopay's coming out. "I think he did it because, at that moment, there were a lot of gay and lesbian movements going on in New York, Philadelphia, and San Francisco."

Despite Kopay's bravery, football remained an unwelcome environment for gay people. The next retired player didn't come out until 1992 — 17 years later. Being gay was still the greatest taboo in football, and even the whiff of a rumor could be career-ending, says Tuaolo.

Minnesotans for Equality's Tracy Call believes Kluwe could be the difference in defeating the amendment
Antonio Rodriguez
Minnesotans for Equality's Tracy Call believes Kluwe could be the difference in defeating the amendment

During his nine years with five NFL teams, Tuaolo had to completely dissociate himself with his sexuality. He regularly witnessed fistfights in the locker room over players calling each other gay, and coaches sometimes joined in the hazing. It was enough to make him contemplate suicide.

"It was part of my life," he says. "That was my career. Everyone makes sacrifices in their life. For me, I had to sacrifice part of my humanity."

By the mid-2000s, the topic of homosexuality in major league sports became impossible to ignore. In the span of a single week in 2007, retired NBA player John Amaechi came out as gay, and former Miami Heat guard Tim Hardaway came out as homophobic, bluntly saying in a radio interview that he wouldn't want Amaechi on his team.

"You know, I hate gay people, so I let it be known," Hardaway said. "I don't like gay people and I don't like to be around gay people. I am homophobic. I don't like it. It shouldn't be in the world or in the United States."

Despite Hardaway's comments and several death threats, Amaechi later announced that he had "underestimated America," and had been overwhelmingly welcomed with acceptance. For fans, hearing the controversial debate played out so publicly in a single week was unprecedented, says Cyd Zeigler, co-founder of Outsports.com, a gay-friendly sports website.

"Professional sports took a jump in our culture then," Zeigler says. "They saw both sides in that one week...I think ever since that moment, the progress of gay equality in sports has sped up a lot."

Today it's generally agreed that sports culture is more accepting of homosexuality, and the evidence is in the headlines. Last year, Phoenix Suns President Rick Welts came out, and former Dallas Cowboys receiver Michael Irvin appeared on the cover of Out Magazine, opening up in an interview about his gay brother. Former Pittsburgh Pirates owner Kevin McClatchy also came out as gay this year, as did retired Seattle Seahawk Wade Davis — the fourth NFL player to come out after retirement. And teams across the professional sports gamut are releasing "It Gets Better" videos with anti-gay-bullying messages, inspired by alt-weekly sex columnist Dan Savage.

"I think the last year has seen a tipping point for a variety of reasons," says Woog. "Everybody was sort of waiting for an athlete to come out in one of the major sports, and what happened instead was a lot of activity on the straight ally front."

But the major leagues are not yet rid of homophobia. Most recently, Toronto Blue Jays shortstop Yunel Escobar was suspended for etching what translates to "You are a faggot" in the black paint under his eye during a game.

The fact that Escobar was only suspended for three days is evidence that the league isn't fully committed to eradicating the problem, argues Dave Pallone, a gay former baseball umpire and author of Behind the Mask: My Double Life in Baseball.

"The Toronto Blue Jays should have said, 'Go home. Take the last two weeks off,'" says Pallone. "What he did was beyond the scope of ridiculous and beyond the scope of hurtful."

Even with the emergence of allies like Kluwe, the final test has yet to come, says Pallone.

"There's only one thing that will knock down that wall entirely, and that will be for a male athlete in one of the major sports to come out while he's still playing."


One month before the amendment vote, Kluwe is getting ready to wait tables at Manny's Steakhouse. It's a Monday night, and Kluwe has agreed to work at a celebrity charity dinner organized by Vikings linebacker Chad Greenway. An hour before the event begins, Kluwe is in a hidden VIP room with black velvet curtains and a flat-screen TV, perusing his Twitter feed on his phone.

"Just checking the jabber," he says.

In these final weeks before the election, Kluwe will be a blunt instrument in the "Vote No" campaign. Minnesotans for Equality has transformed the highlights of his now-famous letter into T-shirts that read: "Lustful Cockmonster" and "Beautifully Unique Sparkle Pony." Half of the proceeds will go to the campaign, the other half to Kluwe's charity. The group is also trying to arrange a debate between Kluwe and any willing Republican. So far, no one has volunteered.

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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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