Vikings asst coach tiring of Kluwe’s activism

Minnesota Vikings punter Chris Kluwe has made a name for himself

as much for his willingness to take outspoken stands on issues that

are important to him as he has for pinning opponents inside the

10-yard line.

He’s been celebrated as a champion for gay rights, chastised for

his willingness to challenge the NFL establishment and fined for

altering his jersey to campaign for the Hall of Fame to enshrine

its first punter.

It all appears to be wearing thin with his position coach. When

asked about the $5,250 fine that Kluwe incurred for putting ”Vote

Ray Guy” over a patch on his jersey commemorating the 50th

anniversary of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, Vikings special teams

coordinator delivered a sharp rebuke.

”I don’t even want to talk about that,” Mike Priefer said

Thursday. ”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.”

The Vikings have generally stood behind their renaissance man,

rarely getting in the way when he has tried to use his platform to

raise awareness to issues away from the field. Kluwe became an

important and high-profile advocate for gay marriage during the

election. He’s also addressed what he sees as a problem the NFL has

with drunken driving in the wake of Dallas Cowboys player Jerry

Brown’s death and criticized voters for not putting a punter into

the hall.

With the Vikings (7-6) trying to chase a playoff spot in the

final three games of the season, Priefer thinks it’s time for Kluwe

to cool it with the activism and concentrate on his job.

”To me, it’s getting old,” Priefer said. ”He’s got to focus

on punting and holding.”

The timing of Priefer’s comments seem a little odd, given that

Kluwe is coming off a stellar performance in a victory over the

Chicago Bears. Facing dangerous returner Devin Hester, he averaged

45.7 yards on seven punts and twice pinned the Bears inside the

5-yard line.

Kluwe has always taken pride in not being defined by being a

football player. He plays in a band, is a voracious reader and

throws himself into civil rights discussions. So it’s no surprise

the pointed words from his coach were met with a shrug.

”All I can do is go out and punt to the best of my ability each

game, and that’s how I’ve always approached things,” Kluwe wrote

in an email to The Associated Press. ”If the team ever wants to

replace me, they will; I’m under no delusions as to how this

business operates. We all get cut eventually.”

Vikings coach Leslie Frazier said he has had conversations with

Kluwe about buckling down as the games get more important.

”We’ve had some conversations, Chris and I,” Frazier said.

”Right now he knows the focus has to be on the St. Louis Rams.

He’s assured me that’s where his focus is and we just have to keep

moving forward.”

At least one person is thankful that Kluwe has been willing to

speak up.

Tracy Call, a Minneapolis advertising executive, helped recruit

Kluwe into activism against a constitutional amendment to ban gay

marriage that Minnesota voters defeated last month. She formed a

political group – Minnesotans for Equality – that paid to air a

radio commercial where Kluwe urged defeat of the amendment.

”Chris always made it very clear there were times when we could

not contact him, including Saturdays and game days,” Call said.

”When he was on the field, his mind was on the field. He’s very

focused and I think it’s ridiculous to think otherwise just because

he expresses opinions.”

Call gave Kluwe huge credit for helping defeat the

amendment.

”His message really hit home for a lot of people, a lot of

people in the middle who didn’t ever tune in on this issue

before,” Call said. ”Frankly, I think we should have a parade for

him.”

Associated Press Writer Pat Condon, in St. Paul, contributed to

this story.

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