Tom Powers: Kluwe mess is a learning moment gone way too far
Here’s what it’s going to take to make Chris Kluwe happy: He gets reinstated as Vikings punter. He also receives back wages from last season, several million dollars for emotional distress and defamation of character, legal fees and the opportunity to throw out the first pitch at a ballgame at Target Field.
Furthermore, Mike Priefer, upon successful completion of his sensitivity class, gets the electric chair. After which he is laid to rest in a rainbow-colored coffin and on a deserted island that also serves as a nuclear test facility.
Then, and only then, will we have peace and quiet.
Now, some may consider that ultimate resolution a bit tough to swallow. For example, Vikings fans must resume watching supposedly angled punts go rolling through the back of the end zone. And the Priefer family likely will see it as rather harsh. But remember that a six-month investigation did uncover a homophobic remark.And, what, the Vikings tried to whitewash that with a three-game suspension? Apparently, that’s not enough to make some people happy. Perhaps the state should claw back several key girders and I-beams from the new stadium. Maybe that’s a lawsuit down the road: No public money for an organization that spawned an insensitive remark.But here’s the thing: Lost amid all this gamesmanship and attention-grabbing is the fact that an educational opportunity virtually has disappeared.At the most basic level, Kluwe vs. Vikings was a chance to show that the sports world is changing, or at least attempting to, right alongside the real world when it comes to basic human rights. A coach said something inappropriate and was called on it and then suspended. The lesson is that such behavior is not acceptable.Period, end of story, everyone goes home a little wiser.There was such potential here. Instead, this thing is getting beaten to death. As a result, there is a clear backlash at the over-the-top reaction by Kluwe and his lawyers. His motives are being questioned. And from this moment on, nothing good is going to happen. This should be over. What’s left?As for who won the battle, until a few days ago I’d say Kluwe did. Not on the job front. Investigators concurred with what most of us already considered fact: that Kluwe was replaced for economic and performance reasons. But he did manage to get Priefer in trouble for what he said, which really was mean when taken in any possible context.However, Kluwe’s actions now smack of exploitation. And in terms of public opinion, he’s moved from the win column to the loss column.The suspension and accompanying sensitivity training seem sufficient. Justice appears to have been served. Yes, for a long time Priefer denied making the offending remark. Who wouldn’t? I can’t imagine someone telling a news reporter: “Why, yes, now that I think of it, about a year ago in what I thought was a private, screwing-around conversation, I suggested all gays be nuked.”But winning wasn’t enough. Now lawsuits and threats are flying. Kluwe has suggested that he has embarrassing dirt to dish with regard to his former employer and teammates. There’s no question that a tell-all book will follow a sensational trial, and that Chris Kluwe will henceforth make his living as the man who took on the NFL over human rights — even though this is starting to look more and more as if it’s about money and attention.At this point, this whole thing has become an annoyance, like dandruff or a sore hamstring. I suppose we can make it stop by giving him his old job back and having the NFL shell out a couple million from its petty cash drawer. Otherwise, there appears to be no hope.What have we learned from Kluwe vs. Vikings? That’s the problem. Not as much as we should have. The lesson has become obscured amid the shrill cries of a personal vendetta that now has the appearance of being one big publicity stunt.
The St. Paul Pioneer Press is a media partner with Forum News Service.