Yesterday, former Minnesota Vikings punter Chris Kluwe released an explosive story outlining his belief that he was cut from the team because of his work on behalf of marriage equality.
It's my belief, based on everything that happened over the course of 2012, that I was fired by Mike Priefer, a bigot who didn't agree with the cause I was working for, and two cowards, [former Vikings head coach] Leslie Frazier and [general manager] Rick Spielman, both of whom knew I was a good punter and would remain a good punter for the foreseeable future, as my numbers over my eight-year career had shown, but who lacked the fortitude to disagree with Mike Priefer on a touchy subject matter.
Priefer issued a statement yesterday evening in response to Kluwe's story. It reads:
I vehemently deny today's allegations made by Chris Kluwe.
I want to be clear that I do not tolerate discrimination of any type and am respectful of all individuals. I personally have gay family members who I love and support just as I do any family member.
The primary reason I entered coaching was to affect people in a positive way. As a coach, I have always created an accepting environment for my players, including Chris, and have looked to support them both on and off the field.
The comments today have not only attacked my character and insulted my professionalism, but they have also impacted my family. While my career focus is to be a great professional football coach, my number one priority has always been to be a protective husband and father to my wife and children.
I will continue to work hard for the Minnesota Vikings, the Wilf family and all of our loyal fans.
Also responding to Kluwe's claims is openly gay Minnesota State Senator Scott Dibble, the author and chief proponent of the state's new marriage equality law.
Writes Sen. Dibble:
"In Chris Kluwe's eight years with the Vikings, not only was he an outstanding contributor to the team on the field - setting several team records-- he was also a tremendous contributor off the field, for his advocacy for freedom and dignity for all Minnesotans. His decision to publicly announce his opposition to the marriage amendment came at a critical time, when many in similar positions of leadership were afraid. His energy and humor helped give momentum to supporters of equality and helped ensure defeat of the marriage amendment.
Kluwe's allegations raise very serious concerns about the culture within the Minnesota Vikings organization. As a business partner of the state of Minnesota, we have strong expectations that the team uphold the values of tolerance and equality that we all share. I am encouraged to some degree by the team's statement in response, but the charges warrant a thorough investigation. If shown to be true, decisive action must be taken.
I am pleased to know that team owner Zygi Wilf supports marriage equality, and I hope he will use his position as the head of this organization to foster an atmosphere that allows the Minnesota Vikings to accept and value all of its players and coaches."
And Kluwe's good friend and fellow athlete ally Brendon Ayanbadejo is also speaking out, telling TMZ that, given Kluwe's stellar stats, the former punter is "100% right" that he was fired for his pro-equality activism. Click here for video of Ayanbadejo's remarks at TMZ.
The team denies Kluwe's allegations.