Chris Kluwe wants to keep punting

Updated: May 7, 2013, 8:09 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

Former Minnesota Vikings punter Chris Kluwe said Tuesday in an interview with ESPN Radio that he's not sure if his opinions prompted his release by the team, but he won't stop speaking out on issues that he believes in.

"I honestly don't know because that's something that gets discussed in meetings between coaches and management. Players aren't generally invited to those meetings, so I don't know what was said in there," he said in an interview with "The Herd with Colin Cowherd."

"The only thing I can do is go out and keep punting and hopefully prove to teams that I can still punt at a very high level."

Kluwe, 31, was released by the Vikings on Monday. He hopes to keep playing, saying, "I firmly believe I have four or five more years left in me."

During his time with the Vikings, Kluwe earned a reputation as one of the most opinionated players in the league. He criticized union leadership during the lockout, wore a patch on his uniform to protest the lack of punters in the Hall of Fame and, most notably, became a vocal supporter of gay rights, penning a number of thoughtful, and occasionally profane, columns on the issue for various websites. He also plays in a rock band in his spare time and is an avid video gamer.

He said the things he speaks out about are based on "basic empathy" and it would be a shame if he or any other athlete was released for publicly addressing such issues.

"There's a shame if someone is speaking out on basic empathy. If that would play a part in someone getting released, that would be just not good when you consider other people are playing who have had arrests," he said. "What kind of message would that send to people?"

He was asked if it bothered him that being a professional athlete and having strong opinions is often viewed as a negative.

"It doesn't just necessarily bother me from an athlete standpoint, it bothers me from a societal standpoint. You are so much more than your job as a citizen of the United States and as a citizen you should be vested in what your country is doing," he said.  

"To me, the fact that people buy into this idea that you do a job, you can't speak out about things, that really is not a good sign for society. It really is showing that people don't care what their society is doing and historically that's not good."

Vikings special-teams coordinator Mike Priefer made it clear last season that Kluwe's headline-grabbing nature was wearing thin with him. When Kluwe was fined more than $5,000 for putting a message reading "Vote Ray Guy" over a patch on his jersey commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Pro Football Hall of Fame in December, Priefer voiced his displeasure.

"Those distractions are getting old for me, to be quite honest with you," Priefer said. "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."

Kluwe said Priefer's comments were "a little surprising to me because I didn't hear anything from anyone during the game."

"The only person who said anything was our uniform inspector guy who said, 'They want you take that off or else you're going to get fined," he said.

"To me, I had just written a column on why Ray Guy should be in the Hall of Fame and it seems hypocritical to then go out and wear a Hall of Fame patch when he's not in the Hall of Fame.

Kluwe said he never had a problem fitting in with his Vikings teammates.

"What I do is, when I'm there to play football, that's the only thing I'm there for. I'm not going to preach ... or tell anyone what to do because that's not what I'm getting paid to do."

Kluwe's release means the league's two most vocal advocates for gay rights are now out of work. Linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo was cut by Baltimore in April.

Kluwe was asked if a gay player would be accepted in NFL locker rooms.

"The majority of guys simply wouldn't care because they're there to play football. And just as no one asks me what I'm doing with my wife once I'm away from the facility, guys are going to respect if someone has a husband or a boyfriend," he said.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

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