On Monday, the NBA's Jason Collins came out of the closet. And now, Chris Kluwe, an outspoken advocate for gay rights, is demonstrating the thorny interrelationship between social agendas and good business sense.
Kluwe is a punter in the NFL, a position that demands precision and focus ... but also a position with a number of suitable candidates for every spot. Kluwe has kicked with distinction for the Minnesota Vikings for the past eight years. But while he's not on the field, he's certainly made an impact off it, speaking out on social issues such as the rights of gays.
Last fall, after Kluwe publicly supported fellow kicker Ray Guy for the Hall of Fame, Vikings special-teams coach Mike Priefer had had enough. “Those distractions are getting old for me, to be quite honest with you,” he said at the time.
And now, those "distractions" could be what is costing Kluwe a job, at least in his estimation. In the fifth round, the Vikings selected punter Jeff Locke, the first selection of a punter in the draft. And Kluwe knew exactly what was going on. After the selection, Kluwe offered this tweet:
— Chris Kluwe (@ChrisWarcraft) April 25, 2013
Later, he zeroed in on what he believes is the issue: his outspoken nature. “It’s a shame that in a league with players given multiple second chances after arrests, including felony arrests, that speaking out on human rights has a chance of getting you cut,” Kluwe said in a text message, according to Pro Football Talk.
There is another side, of course. Kluwe is slated to make $1.4 million in base salary in 2013, one of the top 10 salaries for a punter in the league. Is he worth that amount? Well, that's always the question, isn't it?
The issue now is this: does a player's unusual status, whether as a gay athlete or an advocate for gay athletes, trump business concerns? There are legitimate business reasons to cut Kluwe, just as there are legitimate business reasons for no NBA team to sign Collins, now a free agent. What is the obligation of teams to be politically sensitive when it conceivably impacts their bottom line? These aren't easy questions to answer, if they can be answered at all. But they aren't going away.
-Follow Jay Busbee on Twitter at @jaybusbee.-