Minnesota Vikings punter and friend of Deadspin Chris Kluwe has been struggling on the field lately, so much so that the Vikings worked out a few potential replacements last week. This isn't a unique situation, as punters fall into slumps all the time, and are often cut in favor of one of the many able-bodied replacements that populate the waiver wire.
Kevin Seifert of ESPN, however, saw Kluwe's struggles as an opportunity to write this piece of shit, in which he claims that Kluwe is a "fortunate NFL employee" (the use of "employee" in that headline is just oozing with smarm) for having not already been cut due to his propensity to focus his energy off of the football field. Now, if you want to make the assertion that Kluwe has been struggling because he spends too much time writing about and campaigning for equal rights for homosexuals, that's fine. You'd be wrong, but you'd at least have a point to argue.
Seifert, however, is too much of a coward to take that final step, and instead fills his column with so much hedging and now-I'm-not-actually-saying-this-thing-that-I'm-currently-saying that you might think it was written by Glenn Beck.
I see nothing wrong with an American citizen exercising his right for activism. I also don't pretend that NFL punters spend 24 hours a day working on their craft. Everyone has a life off the field to some extent.
At the same time, we know this league is an insulated and team-oriented business. Some of its leaders take that sentiment to extremes. I've covered coaches who would recoil at the idea of a player either drawing attention to himself publicly or dedicating significant amounts of time to pursuits other than football, which might or might not be a distraction or a physical drain. Just the smallest smidgeon of a downturn in performance would be enough to make a move.
I don't want anyone to read this post and think I'm suggesting Kluwe has made a bad choice here. I admire his passion and willingness to use his platform to take a social stand. I just think he's fortunate there haven't been any professional consequences. It doesn't take much in this league.
See, Kevin Seifert doesn't personally see anything wrong with Kluwe's activism, but he can totally see how some coaches might have a problem with it, because it might or might not have a negative effect on Kluwe's play. Kevin Seifert isn't saying that Chris Kluwe should be cut, but he would totally get it if the Vikings did decide to cut Kluwe, because all that off-field stuff could be hurting his play.
But wait, how does Vikings coach Leslie Frazier feel about Kluwe's possible off-field distractions? From the very same column:
"Chris is a pro," Frazier told reporters. "He's been able to deal with so many things in his career. He's been able to focus in these situations and focus on the task at hand and has been a very good punter, which he is. I don't think anything off the field is distracting him. He knows how to focus on his job, and I fully expect him to have a big game for us Sunday."
Huh. So what matters, as far as Chris Kluwe's continued employment goes, is how well he does on the field? What a weird notion to have about a football player.