Chris Kluwe for me was always a hero in the sports world, because he did things that really were never done before. What is that? Stand up to homophobia in such a way that it even made people question his sexuality. Same thing happened with other gay rights activists such as Ben Cohen and David Beckham, and similarly Macklemore who changed the face of hip-hop with his equality anthem “Same Love” that featured Mary Lambert, a gay singer. Chris just released an article yesterday on Deadspin alleging that he was let go of the Minnesota Vikings due to his support of the gay community, and blaming two cowards (Leslie Frazier & Rick Spielman) and a bigot to boot (Mike Priefer).
Since the fallout of the article, The Minnesota Vikings have released statements saying that Kluwe’s stance on marriage equality had nothing to do with him being fired, it was purely based on his performance in the sport. This is something that Kluwe vigorously denies, as he believes it was his viewpoints that cost him a spot on the team. So what seems to be the ultimate conclusion in all of this? It is simple as this- Homophobia exists in these kinds of arenas. It always has been, and it always will be.
As someone who grew up playing football, starting in little league, I cared more about the love of the game than worrying about being gay in a sport that is known for its machismo and masculinity on top of its over aggressive behavior for something as simple as throwing a ball around. I made the decision easily to join the Junior Varsity football team when I was in 9th grade, as I played throughout my middle school years. I was still heavily in the closet at that point, and didn’t want anyone knowing out of fear of being teased and bullied. I was actually asked during a routine football practice by a friend if I was gay, and I don’t know if I was just tired of being in the closet or the humidity that day. So I told him. He pretty much said, “Ryan, we’ve known for years. No one cares, just be happy”. That kind of encouragement allowed me to talk to a couple of other guys, until one of them told… the entire school.
As much as I hated that one particular guy and wanted to get him back for what he did to me, I didn’t. I became one of the lucky gay youth who was embraced by his peers and not shunned or ridiculed for something that they themselves couldn’t control. I did quit the football team because after I was outed I somehow felt a sense of defeat and judgement from the rest of the team, something that I still believe is true to this day. There were however guys who rallied around me and saw me for Ryan and not that gay kid, which is something I am forever indebted for them for.
So why bring up that story? Because it all goes back to what Kluwe is striving for- acceptance. I shouldn’t have to feel like my sexuality is a barrier to playing a sport that not only do I like but I happened to be quite good at at a certain point in my life. He just wanted to make sure that everyone is treated equal be in at a job or even if two people of the same sex wanted to get married. This is what I love about guys like him and why in a way he is a personal hero of mine. Even as a straight man he has knocked down the doors for several gay athletes to come out and feel like the sport should matter, not the personal stuff. So regardless if what he is saying is true or not, he has made himself legendary for something he didn’t need to in the first place. What do I call that besides being awesome? Progress.