Gay Rights Activist Chris Kluwe Is Both a Hero and Hypocrite

Mike Freeman@@mikefreemanNFLNFL National Lead WriterJuly 19, 2014

Minnesota Vikings punter Chris Kluwe (5) in a NFL football game against the Houston Texans Monday, Aug. 31, 2009 in Houston. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
David J. Phillip/Associated Press

Chris Kluwe started a fight. It began as a noble fight. A fight that had the potential to change the NFL world. To make it better. To make locker rooms better.

He accomplished some of that. His former assistant coach, Mike Priefer, was suspended by the Vikings three games after the team's internal investigation showed Kluwe's claim that Priefer made a homophobic remark was accurate. Priefer can reduce the suspension to two games if he takes sensitivity training. A synopsis of that report was released to the media late Friday.

That's the honorable part of what Kluwe did. Remember, Priefer initially denied making a remark. So in this way, Kluwe was completely vindicated. The report refutes Kluwe's larger claim that he was dismissed from the team because of his increasingly public stance supporting gay rights.

But to me, that wasn't the important part of this story. This story was locker rooms and how in the post-Incognito NFL world, locker rooms were changing, they were beginning to reflect an American society that was becoming more tolerant of gays in the workplace. Priefer being suspended is part of that evolution and change, and Kluwe deserves credit for getting us there.

Mike McCarn/Associated Press

If only the story had ended at that point. Suddenly, on what was initially a quiet Friday in sports, things took a turn for the worse, got all weird, and a story that showed the evolution of the NFL devolved into a slow burn and a dance with hypocrisy.

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The suspension of Priefer is an improvement of the locker room culture, but this story also shows an inevitable truth, which is locker rooms are places where ugly things are said when no one from the outside is looking, and changing that culture will be almost impossible because it involves men and their testosterone.

Kluwe is proof of this. He is someone that I admire greatly, a hero in some ways, but he is also a trailblazing hypocrite. His entire case, his entire movement, was about changing the workplace culture for the better, to make it less vulgar, and more respectful.

Yet Kluwe, it turns out, was contributing to the ugly aspects of the locker room himself. The report summary states that Kluwe made light of the Jerry Sandusky child-abuse scandal at Penn State.

"Kluwe also made fun of the Vikings’ then Head Strength and Conditioning Coach Tom Kanavy, an alumnus ofand former coach atPenn State University, concerning the Jerry Sandusky/Penn State situation,” the summary says. "In his interview, Kanavy explained that Kluwe cut the seat out of his pants and then put them on to imitate a victim of the Penn State child-abuse scandal. According to Kanavy, Kluwe said that he was a ‘Penn State victim’ and to ‘stay away’ from him while his buttocks were exposed."

Kluwe told investigators: "It didn’t stick in my mind, but, you know, I—it is definitely—if people said they saw it, then yeah, I probably did it."

Jim Mone/Associated Press

Think about this for a second. Kluwe was pushing for locker-room-culture change while at some point he cut a hole in his pants to mock children being raped.

You cannot talk about the vulgarity of one aspect of the locker room while acting with equal childishness in another moment.

There is a difference, I know, between homophobia and a dumb joke. Homophobia is against an entire group of people while Kluwe did a wholly inappropriate thing. Still, if the issue is a poisonous locker room culture, and Kluwe has said for months that he wants to change it, why was he at one point contributing to it?

When the report summary was released, Kluwe went to Twitter, and he went scorched earth. Check that. He didn't scorch the Earth, he moved it inside Mercury's orbit.

He wrote: "Also interesting how so many are willing to follow the Vikings' false lead with the leak about me, and not the admission of Priefer's guilt."

That's not a false lead. It's the Vikings legitimately pointing out that Kluwe was presenting himself one way publicly while sometimes acting another way inside the very locker room he was trying to change.

Kluwe wasn't done. He tweeted: "Oooh, shall we talk about the time two very well known Vikings players were caught in a compromising situation with an underage girl?"

Oh boy.

That type of comment doesn't resemble the honorable man I've watched and read for so long fighting the good fight.

This entire thing shows that Kluwe is human, just as flawed as the coach he criticized.

It shows something else. Locker rooms can be wonderful examples of human beings working together toward a common goal but can also be, at times, cesspools of intolerance. It's part of the locker room charter. Stupid things are said. You can limit some of it, change the culture a bit, make it more professional for sure.

But a core of it will always be primal. Kluwe tried to change that while, it turns out, he was a part of the very thing he wanted to eradicate. 

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