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Saturday, July 19, 2014
Distractions and misdirections on Chris Kluwe

Two thoughts on the Vikings' report about the release of punter Chris Kluwe and anti-gay comments by the team's special teams coach. The coach, Mike Priefer, was suspended for three games (reduced to two if he attends sensitivity training); the report describes him as a good man who made a mistake and said a bad thing. The report insists that Kluwe was released because of performance and contract, not because of his gay-rights/marriage equality activism.

1) The report concludes that the Vikings were not concerned with the content of Kluwe's advocacy, but with the fact of his advocacy and the "distraction" it was creating. While it perhaps gets the team out from liability for retaliation, the notion that players are doing something wrong--something that justifies cutting them--by being politically engaged is a pretty reprehensible stance for the team to take. The NFL (and all professional sports leagues) makes a big deal of how all the charitable work players do--in fact, much of this work is required of the players. The league supposedly wants its players to be engaged. But it is beyond hypocritical and paternalistic to punish a player for having enough of an engaged mind to pick his own causes. And someone needs to excise the word "distraction" from teams' vocabulary. Most people in most walks of life can do their jobs just fine even while taking some time to think, speak, and write on political issues. We need to get past the idea that professional athletes are different.

2) The report mentions Kluwe (and others) making raunchy jokes about Jerry Sandusky; Pro Football Talk's Mike Florio (acting as shill for the Vikings and the NFL)  highlighted this in a series of tweets, repeating what he was told by anonymous league sources. Of course, none of this matters if/when Kluwe sues the Vikings, since none of it would be admissible under evidence rules. And that is for the better. While the rules of evidence are often criticized for leaving out important information and giving fact-finders less than the whole story, they also serve to remove stuff that is meant as little more than misdirection. It should be obvious that there is a world of difference between admittedly tasteless jokes targeting the wrongdoer (not at his victims) and at the school that harbored the wrongdoer, and an explicit call to kill all members of a class of people based on hatred of members of that class. But clearly it is not that obvious, as Florio (who does not seem like the smartest guy anyway) has demonstrated. So the rules help us keep our focus.


This had been blown well out of proportion and if Kluwe were to sue the Vikings it would be as ignorant as the comment that started the whole debacle.

Anonymous Jeff -- 7/28/2014 2:22 AM  

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