Chris Kluwe blasts Saints for Bountygate scandal [Q&A]

Vikings punter Chris Kluwe is known as one of the most outspoken players in the NFL. When news broke late last week about Saints players pooling money and paying one another rewards for injuring their opponents, Kluwe did not make an exception.

"Wow, I hadn't even seen the whole Saints Bountygate thing," he tweeted. "Fuck all of you that participated in that with the intent to injure."

Yesterday, just as the NFL Players Association announced that it would be opening its own investigation into the charges, we caught up with Kluwe from the road. He talked sportsmanship, that fateful 2009 NFC Championship Game, and what evidence of bounties he's seen on his own.

City Pages: Judging from your tweets, your original reaction to the scandal was pretty visceral. How are you feeling about the whole thing now?

Chris Kluwe: Yeah, I mean, it's really just kind of a disgusting thing to see because -- not just as a football player, as a human being. You don't want to think someone is going to take money to deliberately hurt someone else.

CP: Were you pissed as a "human being" or for Favre or for football?

CK: It's a combination of all of it. The thing is, football is violent enough as it is. There's no reason to go make it worse. What we're talking about here is, for a lot of guys, if you get injured that's your livelihood. That's taking food off your table. You may never play football again. That can't be tolerated in any sense of the word.

CP: You pointed out in subsequent tweets that there are two kinds of bounty systems in the NFL -- one for legit plays, and then this one for injuries. Is the first pretty common?

CK: Yeah, that's something I've seen. I've heard other guys talk about it in other places. There are two very different forms of bounties. Obviously the NFL considers both illegal, and the first one can lead to the second one. Guys, they'll pool their money. The guy who's first down in the field in coverage gets 100 bucks, or if you force a sack or a fumble. Football players are Type A by nature and it's a little extra way to compete. That I have no problem with. That's guys trying to go out and make a play. When you cross a line, when you're acting with the purpose of knocking them out of the game, that's something I want no part of.

CP: So you said 100 bucks -- is it always for money?

CK: Sometimes it's money, sometimes it's dinner. It's just one of those things where, it's not even about the amount of the money, it's more the fact that we like to compete. We wouldn't play football if we didn't like to compete. This is just another way for guys to show their prowess against each other. At the end of the day you don't want it to be about hurting people. You want to keep it in the rules of the game.

CP: How serious do you think the impact of this will be?

CK: I think the commissioners are going to come down pretty hard on the Saints, and primarily on Gregg Williams and on [Jonathan] Vilma because they were the ringleaders of the deal. And rightfully so. You have to show this can't be tolerated in the NFL. With all the safety measures they're trying to impose, 20, 30 years down the line, are they going to deal with a whole bunch of lawsuits like now with the concussions? [Commissioner Roger Goodell is] trying to protect the integrity of the game. I don't think anyone can fault him for that.

CP: How would you like to see this fixed?

CK: I'd like to see Williams and Vilma banned from football for life. They clearly showed they established an institution of causing injuries to players. I'd like to see guys who took money suspended for a year. You have to show this won't be tolerated.

CP: What's it like looking back on that 2010 game knowing what we know now about the bounty on Favre?

CK: I remember during the game me and Ryan Longwell were looking at each other like, 'Are they really going after Brett to injure him?' You don't want to think that's what's happening. You like to think guys are above that. Looking back at the game, maybe he doesn't throw that interception in the game. We definitely had the chance to win the game. There's still the nagging feeling of, 'What if? What if he'd been able to scramble a few extra yards?' It really hurts mainly the same guys on the Saints that weren't involved in it. Whatever they accomplished is tainted by the guys that participated in this bounty thing.

CP: Are you going to do anything personally to take on this problem?

CK: I've always made it a habit to kind of speak out about what I see as important to me. This is really important to me. Football is a violent game. At the same time, there are rules. You can't, like, in MMA, you can't just wail away on a guy's nuts. There's things that are allowed and things that aren't allowed. It's just wrong from an ethical standpoint.

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