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Chris Kluwe’s activism isn’t helping gay rights

Editor’s note: The following is a blog entry for “The Periphery” that appears on the Echo Press website under Areavoices. It is written by Brandon Ferdig, who explores themes of human behavior, technological progress and how humans make or shape their world.

As a Minnesotan and lifelong Vikings watcher, I’ve always kept an open ear to the drama stirred up by Vikings former punter Chris Kluwe.

I thought it interesting, albeit tasteless, [for Kluwe] to write a profane letter to politician Emmett Burns in defense of gay marriage. I thought it was interesting that he wore the number of a former punter on his helmet in a show of protest. (I also thought it was interesting why the only reason people cared about what Chris Kluwe had to say at all was because he was a punter. But that’s a different point.)

In an article on Deadspin, Kluwe calls out the staff of the Vikings for releasing him for political reasons. Getting out the truth of a situation is valuable; it’s good to hear an insider’s take on what goes on behind the scenes. This is what journalism is all about – informing the public and helping us understand our world. It’s also good that Kluwe is not afraid to speak out when someone needs to do so whether it be regarding gay rights or any cause.

But why be mean about it? His latest article [was titled] “I Was An NFL Player Until I Was Fired By Two Cowards And A Bigot.”

This might sound simplistic, but name-calling is rude and mean-spirited. It’s bullying. And why call people a coward and a bigot? No one is “a” bigot any more than a man is “a” gay. If the man he speaks of did say homophobic things, why call him out publicly and embarrass him and his family?

Interestingly, and completely counter-productively, this is done in the name of “doing good.”

I think Chris Kluwe falls for the same notion which many advocates believe: that as long as he is on the right side of the issue, this gives him the ticket to be crass and cynical and dirty.

If helping people was the goal, how about just say what happened on the Vikings team with love and concern for the people you say you speak up for? Why not just say that you were targeted for your beliefs; that a member on the coaching staff said homophobic, hateful things (say what those things were); that you worry about the plight of the gay community because of prejudice. The problem would improve. The unnamed coach would certainly watch himself and rethink his words – perhaps even his heart.

Rather, Kluwe’s article names the coaches and Deadspin does their part in exploiting the drama by posting the coaches’ faces with the labels “coward” and “bigot” right next to their image. As such, Kluwe’s message has been polarizing. Comments on Deadspin, though largely positive, are polarized. And on ESPN, the comments (overwhelmingly negative) are also polarized.

But this “activism” isn’t really about helping people. This is about a vendetta against the supposed bad guys. This is about revenge. It’s about self-righteousness, sanctimony and self-inflicted martyrdom. It’s about one man making himself feel better under the veil of “helping others.” Kluwe wanted to stir the pot and get his name in the middle of the media circus again. He did that. But that’s not supposed to be the goal here. It’s supposed to be about being of service to the world. And that’s so easily forgotten when ego gets in the way.