Tag Archives: football

Chris Kluwe, The Vikings, And Sports Privilege

Utah has gay marriage. Say no more. It’s officially over at the highest levels, folks. You can’t spend decades legislating and ordering equality from the chambers of congress, statehouses, and the benches of the high courts before, eventually, it becomes part of our culture to assume that the state and society supports equality even if an obnoxiously large minority of citizens does not. Struggle is followed by reluctant acceptance and regulation which is followed by shifting norms. What happens then is interesting: You have to shut up. STFU in fact. If you are really against equal rights you need to do so in your head and maybe in the privacy of your own home or some crappy bar you hang out in, but otherwise keep it to yourself and stop infecting the next generation. Then, eventually, inequalities can be addressed without as much public fighting. We are moving as a society into that STFU phase.

Except in two areas: Gayness and football.

First, the gayness. It is not entirely clear to me why gayosity and all things related is so far down on the list of things to stop officially hating in American society. Yes, yes, there are post-hoc explanations aplenty but I’m not sure if anything really holds up. The thing is, that which is being “granted” to gays today, over the last year and a half and presumably over the next year or so, should have been granted to everyone ever a long time ago, and was in fact officially, legally, granted to almost everyone in the spirit of law and society if not everywhere always on the ground. Forty and nine years have passed from the passage of the Civil Rights Act to the year in which the tide turned and state after state started abrogating absurd anti-gay laws or enacting same sex marriage fairness. I quickly add that a turned tied does not equal an empty harbor; it is just the point at which things begin to flow mostly in a direction opposite, more or less, they were flowing before.

For those of you who don’t know, Minnesota experienced a major fight last year over same sex marriage and I find this deeply embarrassing as a resident here. If there was a state that could be pointed to as the state that gave our country the Civil Rights Act, it is Minnesota. It was the mayor of Minneapolis later elected as a federal representative and eventually Vice President who made that act happen. We are the Civil Rights State, dammit. And we almost passed a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage! That election day this amendment, along with another bone-headed constitutional amendment that would have favored Republicans in subsequent elections statewide, as well as the Republican control of the state legislature, were swept away like the stinking offal that it was. But the issue should have never come up. General equality should have been something we had legally in this state decades ago. Making inequality part of our constitution would have been a heinous act by people I can only describe as social criminals. Kidnappers of rights, robbers of freedom, aggravated assaulters of the already repressed, punchers down. They even tried to argue that they were good people doing things that other people simply disagreed with. I think not.

But then there is football. When I moved to Minnesota, the football stadium was named the Hubert H. Humphrey Metro-dome, but most people called it the Metrodome, and only rarely the Humphrey Dome, as though they were embarrassed about Humphrey, the afore mentioned champion of civil rights. When I asked various long-time or born and bred Minnesotans about this, they denied that there was anything going on here. They just call it the “Dome” or the “Metrodome” because that’s easier to say. No anti-Humphrey stuff going on here. No implicit indirect passive aggressive resistance to civil rights going on here. Just easier to say. Dome. Metrodome. Nothing else.

Then, they added another name to the Metrodome. They couldn’t get rid of the Humphrey name but the added “Mall of America” to the name by calling the turf on which the play happened “Mall of America Field” so now the big ugly out of date sports stadium has a name that sounds like the full name of one of those British Counts or something: “The Hubert. H. Humphrey Metrodome, Mall of America Field, Also Known as the Thunderdome the Homerdome and The Dome. At your service.”

And I swear to you that as soon as the thing was called “Mall of America Field” the press stopped calling it conveniently “The Metrodome” (leaving off any mention of Humphrey) and started calling it the Mall of America Field. All the time.

Now, I’m sure that there is an excuse for this. The deal was made, the Mall of America invested in naming rights and thereafter the Free Press was required to use that name because they are required to attend to corporate interests. Nothing anti-civil rights, anti-DFL, anti-Humphrey going on here. Just the press being bought off by a major corporation. Go on home, folks, nothing to see here. Business as usual.

And all that is the subtle, nuanced, unspoken context in which the Vikings fired Chris Kluwe. Kluwe, one of the world’s greatest punters ever and in his prime, was one of those players who allowed people like me, who are marginally interested in football but unhappy about certain aspects of the game, to see hope. Kluwe tweeted, and his tweets were often … well, smart, and even progressive. He was also repressed. He once tweeted about how dangerous it might be to play on a solid-frozen open field not prepped for winter play (after the HHH Metrodome collapsed under snow one day). He was told to shut up. He tweeted that too. Eventually he tweeted about the gay marriage amendment, and in fact joined the political movement to defeat the amendment. In short, Kluwe did things that football players were not supposed to do: Think, speak, opinionate, not be a right wing bible-thumping shit.

Chris Kluwe was fired by the vikings because of his gay rights activism. He posted about it in a piece called “I Was An NFL Player Until I Was Fired By Two Cowards And A Bigot“:

In May 2013, the Vikings released me from the team. At the time, quite a few people asked me if I thought it was because of my recent activism for same-sex marriage rights, and I was very careful in how I answered the question. My answer, verbatim, was always, “I honestly don’t know, because I’m not in those meetings with the coaches and administrative people.”

This is a true answer. I honestly don’t know if my activism was the reason I got fired.

However, I’m pretty confident it was.

Go read the entire piece. It is rather amazing. This is not a simple situation. The owner of the team seems to have been supportive of Kluwe’s activism. The coach seems to have been swayed to ask Kluwe to STFU, but reluctantly (he is, after all, one of the few African American coaches in the NFL and does not seem like a “pull the ladder up” kind of guy). The real bad guy in this scenario may be Mike Preifer, the special teams coach and thus punter Kluwe’s immediate boss. Preifer is painted by Kluwe as a real dick, telling the player that he’ll burn in hell with the gays and once stating “We should round up all the gays, send them to an island, and then nuke it until it glows.” Kluwe notes:

It’s my belief, based on everything that happened over the course of 2012, that I was fired by Mike Priefer, a bigot who didn’t agree with the cause I was working for, and two cowards, Leslie Frazier and Rick Spielman, both of whom knew I was a good punter and would remain a good punter for the foreseeable future, as my numbers over my eight-year career had shown, but who lacked the fortitude to disagree with Mike Priefer on a touchy subject matter.

Also, the Vikings suck. A year or so ago one might have hope that they’d move out of state and we could be rid of them but a new stadium is being built as we speak and they are here to stay. Therefore, they have to change. Hopefully the firing of Chris Kluwe will serve a positive purpose as a turning point. Next, we need to see the firing of Mike Priefer. A person in any management position in any profession in the United States who told his employees the things he said to the Vikings players would be fired. Except in sports, especially football. Sports teams, players, coaches, and owners seem to live in a world where they can be freely racist, anti-gay, and religious bigots. That really has to end.

The Superbowl and God

The Public Religion Research Institute has conducted a poll about the Superbowl They found:

27% of Americans believe that God plays a role in determining which team winds a sporting event.

53% of Americans believe that god rewards athletes who have faith with good health and success

42% of Americans don’t think that those 53% of Americans are correct.

By religion, there is variation in the percentage of people who believe that god determines the outcome of sporting events, or that god rewards athletes of faith. They have a graph:

God and the Superbowl, by religious affiliation

50% of Americans are fine with athletes making public shows of their religiosity during a sporting event. An amazingly low 4% don’t approve. Which is funny, because every single person I know disapproves of this, religious or otherwise. I suspect this may be the way the question was asked (in this poll, 45% don’t think it matters).

And now, for the scary bit, the part that proves that most Americans are not patriots:

Nearly 9-in-10 (89%) Republicans agree that public high schools should be allowed to sponsor prayer before football games, compared to more than three-quarters (77%) of independents and nearly 7-in-10 (68%) Democrats.

Are those same people also against due process, freedom of speech, and the right to own a firearm? I think not. Makes no sense. Why religiously believe that failing to have strong beliefs that conform to the Constitution makes one evil, except here and there? WHY?

The survey is here.


Photo Credit: Ed Yourdon via Compfight cc

The Saints Did In Fact Strategize to Injure Favre (I told you so)

On January 29th, 2010, I wrote:

I do not appreciate the fact that the New Orleans Saints defense, when playing the superior Minnesota Vikings, clearly designed, practiced, and successfully implemented a strategy that if adopted by other teams and not stopped by new rules, will change the way the sport is played forever. During the playoff game with the Vikings, the Saints’ defense got through the Vikings’ defensive line and knocked down the quarterback something like 19 times. Not sacked. They knocked him down after he had thrown or passed off the ball. One time there was a penalty, and the commentators covering the game claimed that penalty was not appropriate.

In other words, the Saints figured out a way of physically hitting the QB after he let go of the ball without it being a penalty. They did it enough times to injure and disorient Brett Favre. In my view, two or three of the plays late in the game would likely not have gone the way they went had Favre not been injured in this way. The Saints probably won the game by using this new technique.

Ethan Siegel disagreed. He said:

The Colts have a much better O-line than the Vikes. You might not like your QB getting hit after the ball is thrown, but it’s your linemen’s jobs to protect him, not the officials’.

José said:

It’s not some new strategy developed by the Saints. It’s the strategy that’s used by every single team in every single game. The Vikings were trying to do the exact same thing to Drew Brees. They just weren’t as successful. There’s even a stat called “knockdowns” which records legal hits on a quarterback made after he’s released the ball.

No one is saying the strategy doesn’t exist. We’re saying that it is the strategy that is always used. It’s just a normal part of a brutal sport. Try and find an article that suggests that the Saints tactics could change the way the game will be played.

Jared said:

How closely, exactly, did you watch the game?
Favre got rid of the ball early many times because he was about to be tackled. The Saints didn’t get sacks because he’s a good quarterback and was throwing the ball before someone got to him (often away). It’s not a “new strategy.”

Brian said:

Greg, apparently in your rush to expose the “virtually unprecedented” strategy of the Saints by linking to a news story wherein they promise to give Peyton some “remember-me” shots, you failed to read just one paragraph further.
[i]”We hear it all the time,” left guard Ryan Lilja said Friday. “The teams in our division go out and draft guys for that reason. You hear rumors about bounties and that kind of stuff, so it’s nothing new.”[/i]
Whether wrong or right, it’s not something unprecedented.
And knockdowns are an unofficial stat, but they are considered by many when ranking defensive players (considered with sacks, hurries, etc.).

And there were other naysayers. Some commented here.

And they were all wrong. And I was all right.

From The Washington Post:

The NFL suspended New Orleans Saints Coach Sean Payton, General Manager Mickey Loomis and former defensive coordinator Gregg Williams Wednesday for their roles in a bounty system that provided the team’s players payments for hits that injured opponents.

Williams was suspended indefinitely. Payton was suspended for one year, and Loomis was suspended for eight games…

The Saints were fined $500,000 and lose two second-round draft choices, one in this year’s draft and one in 2013…

Saints assistant head coach Joe Vitt also was suspended for six games. …

The penalties are among the harshest in the sport’s history. …

“A combination of elements made this matter particularly unusual and egregious,” Goodell added. “When there is targeting of players for injury and cash rewards over a three-year period, the involvement of the coaching staff and three years of denials and willful disrespect of the rules, a strong and lasting message must be sent that such conduct is totally unacceptable and has no place in the game.”

According to the NFL’s investigation, the fund reached as much as $50,000 or more and players were paid $1,500 for a hit that knocked an opponent from a game and $1,000 for a hit that led to an opposing player being helped off the field. Those amounts doubled or tripled for playoff games, according to the league’s investigation.

From MPR:

We knew it!

In the franchise-changing NFL National Conference championship game in 2010, many thought the New Orleans Saints were playing dirty and out to injure people, particularly then-Vikings-QB Brett Favre. Now we know the truth. They were.

Today, the National Football League revealed results of an investigation into a “bounty program” the Saints had that paid players for injuring the competition.

It said between 22 and 27 defensive players and at least one assistant coach were involved and that the payouts to players reached a high of $50,000 during the playoffs that year.

What needs to happen now is obvious, isn’t it? The Saints need to give up their Superbowl win. They cheated. They need to turn in their rings, and they need to be removed from play for a couple of years. Let the franchise die on the vine if that’s how it happens to turn out.

As I once said:

I did not appreciate the sentiment that the New York Yankees had to win the World Series because Osama Bin Laden blew up the World Trade Center. I do not appreciate the sentiment that the New Orleans Saints have to win the Super Bowl because George Bush let poor New Orleans residents die in the Super Dome. …

I do not appreciate the idea that gay-dating ads will be banned from the Super Bowl but anti-abortion ads, I hear, will be shown.

Maybe we should just skip football entirely this year. Forever even.