Sports, politics and social issues. Those are three topics that are often digested separately, but sometimes they come bundled together. That's the scenario that formed when NBA player Jason Collins became the first active athlete in a major American sport to come out as gay. It's also the situation that was often created by Chris Kluwe, the Vikings' former punter.
Kluwe has had a track record of speaking his mind on social matters. Some believe this led the Vikings to draft Jeff Locke, eliminating the need for Kluwe. Kluwe, who is neither great or dreadful, is 31 years of age, not ancient by punter standards. Still, the move to upgrade the position shouldn't be surprising from a competitive standpoint either.
Usually, the release of a punter doesn't ruffle any feathers, especially those of a politician, but Minnesota's governor, Mark Dayton, decided to weigh in on the topic.
"I don’t feel good about it," Governor Dayton said. "I mean I’m not in position to evaluate the role and their punting abilities. But it seems to me the general manager said right after the draft that they were going to have competition. Well, then he brings the one guy [Locke] in, he kicks for a weekend and that’s the competition? I mean, I just think sports officials ought to be honest about what the heck is going on. Same way I think public officials should be honest about what’s going on. So that bothers me probably as much if not more than the actual decision."
We'll ignore the obvious irony of a politician making a plea for transparent honesty for the moment and focus on the argument here. Chris Kluwe was a lightning rod player for the Vikings. He attracted more attention than any other punter in the NFL. On PTI, Tony Kornheiser and Michael Wilbon also debated the merits of the move, not really coming to the conclusion that Kluwe was cut on the basis of his outspoken views, but not really refuting it either.
In the end, Chris Kluwe is out of a job, and this news will go away before we know it. It's okay for kickers to speak their minds, but they have to realize that NFL teams hate distractions, especially from expendable players. It appears that Kluwe may have been cut largely because he was becoming a distraction, not for his views on their own. There's a distinction to be made there, and it's important to make that distinction.