Chris Kluwe punted for the Minnesota Vikings for eight seasons before being cut last May. Since then, despite several tryouts with other teams, he has not been able to find work in the National Football League. Kluwe thinks he knows why: his outspoken advocacy for marriage equality. He believes Vikings coaches have been bad-mouthing him.
Kluwe first drew national attention to his views on gay marriage in 2012, when he sent a letter to a Maryland state legislator whom he accused of stifling the free-speech rights of a Baltimore Ravens player who voiced support for a ballot initiative legalizing gay marriage. Kluwe continued to speak out on the issue.
He says that didn’t go over well with Vikings coaches. In a first-person article in January for the sports website Deadspin.com, Kluwe claimed the Vikings’ special teams coach Mike Priefer harassed him over his support for gay marriage and used homophobic slurs. The coach has denied any such behavior.
Kluwe also stated that former Vikings head coach Leslie Frazier asked him not to speak publicly about the issue and that a Vikings executive asked him to “fly under the radar.”
In a February newspaper interview, Kluwe’s attorney hinted that the punter was considering filing a retaliation lawsuit against the Vikings.
Note: Divisive political issues can create difficult workplace situations. Employers may run afoul of some state laws if they punish employees for views and activities they undertake on their own time. Certainly, employers may limit political expression in the workplace if they do so uniformly. Public employers may have to grapple with First Amendment issues.
Advice: Consult your attorney when crafting a policy covering political expression in the workplace.