Minnesota Vikings punter Chris Kluwe, a staunch advocate of gay rights and same-sex marriage, penned a powerful must-read piece for CNN.com in which he argues that an openly gay player would not be a “distraction” to National Football League teams.
The phrase “don’t be a distraction,” Kluwe writes, is “pounded” so hard into every player who enters the NFL that “players run the very real risk of losing their jobs if the team deems them too much of a distraction, and unfortunately it seems gay players feel that being comfortable with who they are has to take second place to keeping their jobs.”
“This isn’t right,” he adds. “It’s not right that we can’t just accept someone for who he is.”
While former professional football players have revealed they were gay after their careers were over, none has yet to do so while still playing in the NFL. But Kluwe has plenty of advice for those who think an openly gay player in the NFL would be a distraction.
For coaches and administrative personnel, he advises: “Instead of looking at an openly gay player as a distraction, ask yourselves—how much better would that player play if he didn’t have to worry about hiding a core part of who he is? How many more sacks would he have, free of that pressure? How many more receptions? How many more rushing yards?”
For fans and media, he says an openly gay player is only a distraction if you make it one and “if you insist on denying someone the freedom to live his own life on his own terms, instead of under someone else’s control. Stop worrying about who a player dates; worry about his completion percentage, or tackles for loss, or return average. I can promise you, on Sundays the only thing he’s worried about is lining up and doing his job to the best of his ability, or else he’s going to be cut (just like any of us).”
For his fellow NFL players, he admonishes, “Those of you worried about a gay teammate checking out your ass in the shower, or hitting on you in the steam room, or bringing too much attention to the team—I have four simple words for you. Grow the f*** up. This is our job, we are adults, so would you kindly act like one?”
Finally, Kluwe has advice and some words of encouragement for the NFL player who eventually does come out. Addressing this “brave” man, the Vikings player writes: “will you have to deal with media attention, with heightened scrutiny? Yes. Despite everything Brendon [Ayanbadejo], Scott [Fujito], myself, and all your other allies do, despite all the articles we write and interviews we give, despite the growing acceptance across this entire country, there are going to be people who insist on looking at you through the lens of your sexuality, and not at your skills as a football player. But you know what? All of us understand the truth.”
“You are a teammate, a friend, and you do not have to sacrifice who you are for the team to win, no matter what anyone else says,” he concludes.
Read Kluwe’s entire op-ed here. Watch Kluwe discuss gay rights and same-sex marriage with Anderson Cooper on CNN’s “AC 360” below: