How Much Did Chris Kluwe's Outspokenness Factor Into Vikings' Decision To Cut Him?
Vikings P Chris Kluwe was released yesterday, and “cynics will look at the Vikings’ decision and wonder whether they cut Kluwe based solely on football or whether they had also tired of their veteran punter generating so much off-the-field attention for his candid opinions and activism,” according to Dan Wiederer of the Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE. Vikings GM Rick Spielman, after drafting P Jeff Locke, “insisted the push to separate from Kluwe was purely competitive.” Spielman said, “It had nothing to do with Chris Kluwe’s off-field concerns. I have no issues if Chris Kluwe wants to express his opinion. That’s his right, that’s his freedom of speech. This is just a football decision to bring in a guy to come in to compete." Wherever Kluwe lands, "he wants his next team to know he’ll be dedicated to his job but that he won’t stifle his opinions on topics he feels strongly about.” Kluwe “could not say for sure whether voicing his opinions so frequently had become a catalyst for his release.” But he is “hopeful that was not the case and that it won’t deter other organizations from giving him an opportunity” (Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE, 5/7). In St. Paul, Bob Sansevere writes Kluwe's of activism affecting the Vikings' decision, “We might never know how much a part it truly played, if any.” Sansevere: “We do know this: The activism got Kluwe a sharp rebuke last season from Vikings special team coordinator Mike Priefer” (ST. PAUL PIONEER PRESS, 5/7).
THINKING OUT LOUD: In Minneapolis, Chip Scoggins wrote, “Regardless of whether they admit it, the Vikings are jettisoning Kluwe partly because they grew tired of his outspokenness.” Kluwe has “become the most visible punter in NFL history because of his social activism.” The Vikings “deny that Kluwe’s public stance on issues factored into their decision -- not that they would ever admit it -- but they likely prefer someone who embraces the anonymous life of an NFL punter” (Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE, 5/5). CBSSPORTS.com’s Mike Freeman wrote it would be “silly to think” the Vikings did not release Kluwe “in part due to his activism and public stances on a variety of things.” It would be “asinine to say he wasn't cut, at least partially, because he yapped too much” (CBSSPORTS.com, 5/6). FOXSPORTS.com’s Jen Floyd Engel writes Kluwe’s activism “definitely factored into his release, and anybody in Minnesota who says otherwise is lying.” Floyd Engel: “We say we want athletes to take stands and have opinions, but this is a lie. We demand they shut up and play, or insist if they must speak that they share our opinions” (FOXSPORTS.com, 5/7). But CBS' Doug Gottlieb said, "This is just a business transaction where they didn’t feel like Chris Kluwe was good enough.” CBS' Allie LaForce added, “And you can save a lot of money with a rookie who can produce the same numbers that he did” (“Lead Off,” CBS Sports Network, 5/6).
FREE AGENT SPEECH: In N.Y., Pat Borzi notes both Kluwe and free agent LB Brendon Ayanbadejo “are out of work,” as the Ravens “released Ayanbadejo two months ago.” Kluwe “wonders whether that might discourage other NFL players from speaking out on issues.” Kluwe: “It’s really going to depend on whether we are able to find work. If we’re not, then people are probably going to draw the logical conclusion. That will happen. I would hope the NFL isn’t an organization that will allow something like that to happen” (N.Y. TIMES, 5/7). YAHOO SPORTS’ Les Carpenter wrote while “you could argue Ayanbadejo was a financial casualty for a team desperate to get under the salary cap, Kluwe was a modest budget strain to the Vikings.” What happened to him “makes little sense." Except it "makes lots of sense.” There is an “idea in football that punters should be seen and not heard” (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 5/6).