Ex-Viking Chris Kluwe says he was fired for supporting same-sex marriage

1:35 PM, Jan 7, 2014   |    comments
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Chris Kluwe. (Bruce Kluckhohn-USA TODAY Sports)

 

(CBS NEWS) -- Chris Kluwe, the NFL player making explosive accusations against the Minnesota Vikings, is now represented by legal counsel. Kluwe, a former Vikings punter, claims the team released him last season for supporting same-sex marriage.

He released a letter online late last week alleging the Vikings cut him in May of last year after he publicly campaigned for same sex marriage during the previous season. Now, the Vikings organization is launching its own investigation.

CBS News' Ben Tracy sat down with Kluwe at his home in California and asked the former punter if he has plans to sue the Vikings.

"A lawsuit isn't currently on the table," he said. "I have nothing against the Vikings organization itself, it's really I just would like it to be acknowledged that I was doing my job and then I was let go because of these people and hopefully we can make some changes both within the Vikings and within the NFL as a whole to make sure that it doesn't happen again."

In 2012, Minnesotans for Marriage equality asked Kluwe, a married father of two daughters, to help them defeat an amendment that would have banned same-sex marriage in the state. He appeared in several ads.

Kluwe continues his advocacy wearing an anti-bigotry hat. He says in 2012, Vikings owner Zygi Wilf supported his activism, but head coach Leslie Fraiser asked him to stop and special teams coach Mike Priefer became openly hostile. In his letter, Kluwe calls Fraiser a coward and Priefer a bigot.  

Kluwe told Tracy that his letter was not harsh, but "factually accurate" and that there was a specific turning point for him that made him realize he was in a bad environment.

"It would be when Mike Prefier made his statement, 'You should round up all gays and put them on an island and nuke it till it glows,' because the tone in which he said it, was very, very serious, he meant every word," said Kluwe.

In a statement Priefer said, "I vehemently deny...allegations made by Chris Kluwe ... I do not tolerate discrimination of any type and am respectful of all individuals."  

Kluwe says several teammates witnessed Priefer's alleged remark and the Vikings have commissioned an independent review of the allegations, but in a statement said "Any notion that Chris was released from our football team due to his stance on marriage equality is entirely inaccurate ... Chris was released strictly based on his football performance."  

The 32-year-old says he doesn't think the NFL as a whole is homophobic but he can't find a team to hire him.

Tracy asked Kluwe why he's speaking out now instead of when it happened.

"That's the dammed if you, dammed if you don't part. If I had done it when it was happening, people would be like 'Why are you trying to bring a distraction on the team? Why are you ruining the team's chances here? Why don't you just be quiet and play," he said. "Then if I wait, it's the 'Why didn't you say it then? Why are you being cowardly now? Why are you doing all this stuff? Why didn't you do it then?' And really my response is because you know, my teammates."

Yet, so far none of those teammates have come to his defense. 

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