Chris Kluwe (Tom Dahlin/Viking Update)
The Vikings have released punter Chris Kluwe. Kluwe broke the news with his Twitter account Monday morning, and about four hours later the team confirmed the move.
The Vikings have released Chris Kluwe, the outspoken punter tweeted Monday morning. About four hours later, the team confirmed the move.
“So long, Minnesota, and thanks for all the fish,” he tweeted. “Thank you to all the fans, my teammates, and the Wilf family for the past 8.5 years. I wouldn’t have traded it for anything.”
The Vikings drafted former UCLA punter Jeff Locke in the fifth round of this year’s draft, for the most part sealing Kluwe’s fate, despite general manager Rick Spielman’s contention that the team was just creating competition at the position, like they would any other.
Kluwe was scheduled to meet with Spielman Monday, one day after the Vikings completed their rookie minicamp, when they saw Locke in action, both as a punter and holder for field goals and extra points, which was also part of Kluwe's duties.
Kluwe’s outspoken ways on everything from gay rights to former punter Ray Guy not being in the Hall of Fame wore thin with special teams coordinator Mike Priefer.
“I don’t even want to talk about that,” Priefer said last year after Kluwe put athletic tape over the Hall of Fame emblem on his jersey and wrote “Vote Ray Guy” on it, an action that drew a fine from the NFL.
“Those distractions are getting old for me, to be quite honest with you,” Priefer continued. “Do I think Ray Guy deserves to be in the Hall of Fame? Absolutely. But there’s other ways about going about doing it, in my opinion.”
Kluwe has also blasted former New Orleans Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams for his role in the so-called Bountygate, criticized the NFL’s replacement officials, and dealt with a Facebook imposter.
In June, he is scheduled to be the grand marshal for the Twin Cities PRIDE parade.
Kluwe entered into the realm of public advocacy for gay rights issues last year when he wrote a scathing open letter to Maryland state delegate Emmett C. Burns Jr. that was published on Deadspin.com. Kluwe criticized Burns for asking the Baltimore Ravens to quite the gay-rights stance of former player Brendan Ayanbadejo.
“Being a Pride marshal is important to me because it shows that you don’t have to be part of a group in order to support that group,” Kluwe said in an e-mail to Viking Update. “I think a lot of people understand the basic concept of treating others the way you’d like to be treated, but then struggle to apply that in their lives, and my hope is I can show that even manly football players – well, as manly as a punter can be – can still support those whose rights are being denied them.”
Kluwe spent eight seasons with the Vikings. Last year, he averaged 45 yards on 72 punts with a 39.7-yard net average, the best net average of his career. He was scheduled to make $1.45 million in 2013, including base salary and a $50,000 workout bonus.
“Chris has meant a great deal to the Vikings both on and off the field in his eight seasons here,” Spielman said in a press release when the team announced Kluwe's release. “He contributed to many victories and we wish Chris and his family the best and thank him for his contributions to the Vikings organization. Out of respect to Chris, we decided to release him now and allow time for him to sign with another team.”
Tweeted Kluwe before the Vikings made the move official: “Thank you everyone for your support. Remember, one label does not define who you are as a person :)”
Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.