EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — Minnesota Vikings punter Chris Kluwe has never shied from taking a public stance and fighting for causes he believes in, often doing so on controversial topics and becoming a lightning rod for public discussion and criticism.
Kluwe has heard from fans via his favored medium of Twitter often this season that he should be focusing on his punting instead of his protesting, and now that sentiment might be shared by one of his coaches.
“To me it’s getting old,” Minnesota special teams coordinator Mike Priefer said Thursday. “He’s got to focus on punting and holding.”
Earlier this fall, Kluwe became well-known for his stance as an advocate for same-sex marriage rights. Recently, he has taken up the cause for former Raiders punter Ray Guy, who is considered the best punter in NFL history but has not been inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
As the Hall of Fame celebrated its 50-year anniversary Sunday with patches placed on uniforms, Kluwe placed a self-made sticker over the top of the patch that read, “Vote Ray Guy.” On Wednesday, the NFL fined Kluwe $5,250 for violating uniform policy. Kluwe expected the fine and followed through with his protest willingly.
“It got people talking about it,” Kluwe said. “I heard the broadcast team talked about it for a bit. And hopefully, people will realize, ‘Hey, punters aren’t in the Hall of Fame, maybe we should do something about that.'”
But maybe Kluwe’s attention-grabbing moves are beginning to wear on folks at the team’s Winter Park practice facility.
Earlier this season, in the midst of the debates about same-sex marriage rights, Priefer never objected to Kluwe’s off-field persona, saying he was concerned only about the punter showing up and doing his job. Coach Leslie Frazier and Priefer said Kluwe was putting in his work. But with Kluwe underperforming for a few games in the middle of the season, his public activism stood out and Minnesota even brought in a few punters for tryouts in October.
Kluwe has averaged 44.7 yards per punt this season and has a career-high 40.0 net average, but his coach was in no mood Thursday to discuss his punter’s recent publicity.
“I don’t even want to talk about that,” Priefer said. “Those distractions are getting old for me, to be quite honest with you. Do I think Ray Guy deserves to be in the Hall of Fame? Absolutely. But there’s other ways of going about doing it, in my opinion.”
Priefer said he hasn’t talked with Kluwe about the issues, because “he don’t listen.” Kluwe wasn’t available for comment after Priefer’s remarks. Frazier, however, did address the issue.
“We’ve had some conversations, Chris and I,” the coach said. “And right now he knows the focus needs to be on the St. Louis Rams. He’s assured me that’s where his focus is, and we’ve got to keep moving forward.”