Most NFL punters spend the majority of their time focusing on one thing: kicking the ball, and kicking it well. But Chris Kluwe — the most successful punter the Minnesota Vikings ever had and now signed to Oakland — has a few other things on his mind. Like bad drivers, and the proper degree of pressure for a handshake. And more substantive issues, like gay marriage.
Last year, Kluwe wrote a bombastic letter to a Maryland state legislator, accusing him of bigotry after the congressman suggested that football players not express opinions about gay marriage. The language in the letter was so, shall we say, colorful, that it went viral.
Kluwe's thoughts on gay marriage, football and the universe are collected in a new book, Beautifully Unique Sparkleponies. He tells NPR's Rachel Martin that his writing style serves a purpose.
"One of the things I've found," he says, "is that if you make a logically constructed argument and then you throw in some very inventive swearing, they'll remember the swearing and then that triggers your point!"
On becoming an activist
"I never expected to be an activist, but when Minnesotans For Marriage Equality, when they approached me last year to help defeat the constitutional amendment in Minnesota, I looked it over and I said, 'Yeah, this is something worth doing.' I don't think we should enshrine discrimination into a state's constitution. There's no reason that we should be discriminating against people in the United States of America considering how many times we've fought this battle before. We've fought this with slavery, we've fought it with suffrage, and we've fought it with segregation, and it seems like every 50 to 60 years we keep having that same stupid war over people who want to control other peoples' lives versus those who just want to be free to live and to love other people."
On how he's received in the locker room
"That's the thing that I've always been very careful of, is that when I'm in the locker room, I'm there to play football, because that's what I'm being paid to do, and if guys want to talk to me, I'm more than happy to have a conversation, but I'm never gonna get in anyone's face, I'm never gonna try and preach and forcefully convert someone, because that's not what I'm there to do."
On being a football player
"Put me out of business. It's essentially the fact that as an individual, I can say as much as I want, I can write as much as I want, but until society as a whole decides that we want to value different things, then nothing is going to change, you know? I'm very good at what I do. I'm very good at playing football, and I will continue being very good at playing football until society decides that football is not something they're going to reward members for way over what they should be rewarded for, and at that point, I'll go find something else to do. Because I believe that if you spend the time, if you work hard, then you can achieve almost anything you want to do, and so, you know, I enjoy playing football, but there's also a lot of other things that I would enjoy doing."