The story of an exciting NFL season was marred by ugly anti-American anthem protests.
Viewership and ad revenue sharply dipped as a result of the politicization of pro football.
But the infusion of politics into the league could be ratcheted up after one incident.
Despite fans’ aversion to politics mixing with sports, the Minnesota Vikings are set to host a gay rights summit and fundraiser after one of their assistant coaches allegedly directed an anti-gay comment toward a player.
Chris Kluwe, the player in question, was a punter for the Vikings and is currently retired. Kluwe claims the comments were in response to his advocacy for same-sex marriage.
The Minnesota Vikings will host an LGBTQ summit and fundraiser as part of a settlement over anti-gay comments purportedly directed at former Vikings player Chris Kluwe.
The team now says it will host the summit/fundraiser for gay organizations on June 21, prior to the Twin Cities gay pride parade this year, the Star Tribune reported.
The paper notes that the Vikings are the first NFL team to host a gay summit/fundraiser, but the event was not necessarily the team’s idea. It is a result of an agreement with former punter Chris Kluwe who threatened to sue after special teams coordinator Mike Priefer reportedly used anti-gay language.
“We obviously had our issues a while ago, but this is our way of looking forward and trying to figure out how we make sure that we set the stage for that not to happen again,” Kluwe said of the announcement. “I think that it’s the ideal outcome in that, at the end of the day, hopefully this will help a lot of people that otherwise might not have gotten that help.
“It’s a big deal to have an NFL team … put on a summit for LGBTQ issues,” Kluwe added.
Kluwe even urged Priefer to attend presumably to enlighten him with the panel discussions of how players and coaches can make sports more “welcoming” for gays.
Vikings Chief Operating Officer Kevin Warren even insisted that this may become an annual event: “We definitely want to make sure this is not a one-time event. I can say that with confidence.”
Kluwe will speak to the upwards to 200 people the Vikings have invited to the private event. Others appearing to speak include former Olympic diver Greg Louganis and NFL defensive lineman Esera Tuaolo.
The former punter also said he hopes other NFL teams join the Vikings in holding events like this.
Similar to Colin Kaepernick, Kluwe claims he was discriminated against and expelled from the NFL for his views on same-sex marriage. He also claimed the coach who allegedly made the comments should be barred from the league, although he walked that back.
“If there’s one thing I hope to achieve from sharing this story, it’s to make sure that Mike Priefer never holds a coaching position again in the NFL, and ideally never coaches at any level,” Kluwe wrote in the article.
On Tuesday night, however, Kluwe backed down from his assertion that Priefer should never coach again.
“After thinking about it, after reflecting on it, I don’t think an appropriate punishment is if he never coaches again,” Kluwe said during his appearance. “I think it would be better if he got therapy, if he got counseling, and then a year or two from now, come back into the league as a role model, help out with LGBT groups, and show people that this is an important issue.
While the NFL may be a “macho” environment, it’s not maliciously intolerant. Openly gay defensive end Michael Sam was drafted and given a chance in the league. Coaching legend Vince Lombardi had a gay brother and was supposedly accepting of gay players on the Washington Redskins as far back as the late 1960s.
The NFL is the ultimate meritocracy. The only thing that matters is whether or not you can help the team and while not disrupting locker-room chemistry.
Nevertheless, Kaepernick let the genie out of the bottle, and it appears politics will continue to seep into the NFL.