“So long, Minnesota, and thanks for all the fish!” Kluwe tweeted on Monday morning, shortly after meeting with Vikings General Manager Rick Spielman. “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.”
Kluwe, had been anticipating the move after the Vikings spent a fifth-round draft pick on punter Jeff Locke at the end of last month. Kluwe was coming off one of his best statistical seasons, but he ranked just 17th in the NFL in punting and was due to make $1.45 million this season.
In recent years, Kluwe has become an outspoken advocate for marriage equality and LGBT rights, a thorn in the side of the NFL establishment and a player who never subscribed the mantra “punters should be seen and not heard.”
His release could result in some backlash by fans who applaud his support of same-sex marriage, writes Star-Tribune columnist Chip Scoggins:
Regardless of whether they admit it, the Vikings are jettisoning Kluwe partly because they grew tired of his outspokenness. It’s naive to think the move is based solely on his age (31), salary ($1.45 million) or how he performed last season (inconsistently).
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.
Kluwe has developed a wide audience and become a polarizing figure as a staunch advocate for same-sex marriage. Whether it’s gay rights, player safety or Ray Guy’s omission from the Pro Football Hall of Fame, Kluwe isn’t afraid to voice his opinion. And he refuses to apologize for that, even if it contributes to his exit.
Kluwe himself wondered aloud last week if his activism would contribute to his release from the Vikings.
“It’s a shame that in a league with players given multiple second chances after arrests, including felony arrests, that speaking out on human rights has a chance of getting you cut,” Kluwe told NBC Sports on April 28 via text message.
The following day, Ayanbadejo hinted that his advocacy for marriage equality and LGBT rights may have been one of the reasons he was cut from the team, according to a report by Newsday. Ayanbadejo quickly walked back the comment and said he did not believe his advocacy was a factor.