Outspoken Gay Rights Advocate Chris Kluwe Released From Minnesota Vikings

WASHINGTON -- The Minnesota Vikings released Chris Kluwe on Monday, leading to speculation that the move was motivated in part by the punter's prominent role advocating for gay rights.

"So long, Minnesota, and thanks for all the fish!" Kluwe tweeted Monday morning. "Thank you to all the fans, my teammates, and the Wilf family for the past 8.5 years. I wouldn't have traded it for anything."

Kluwe's release wasn't a complete surprise -- the Vikings drafted another punter late last month. But it's particularly notable because of Kluwe's increasingly high-profile role as an advocate for LGBT rights.

"Regardless of whether they admit it, the Vikings are jettisoning Kluwe partly because they grew tired of his outspokenness," wrote Minneapolis Star-Tribune columnist Chip Scoggins on Sunday. "It's naive to think the move is based solely on his age (31), salary ($1.45 million) or how he performed last season (inconsistently). Kluwe has become the most visible punter in NFL history because of his social activism."

Kluwe told Scoggins that if he were being jettisoned for his outspokenness, he would be fine with that outcome.

"I think the sacrifice would be worth it," he said. "Now, I would hope that I would get the chance to play football again, because I think I can still play. But if it ends up being something that costs me that position, I think making people aware of an issue that is causing children to commit suicide is more important than kicking a leather ball."

"Chris has meant a great deal to the Vikings both on and off the field in his eight seasons here," Vikings General Manager Rick Spielman said Monday in a statement provided to The Huffington Post. "He contributed to many victories and we wish Chris and his family the best and thank him for his contributions to the Vikings organization. Out of respect to Chris, we decided to release him now and allow time for him to sign with another team."

Kluwe's release comes after the Baltimore Ravens released Brendon Ayanbadejo, another prominent gay-rights advocate. Both are part of the group Athlete Ally, which works to end homophobia in sports.

Shortly after his release, Ayanbadejo said he believed his advocacy played a role in the Ravens' decision to let him go.

"I make a lot of noise and garner a lot of attention for various things off the football field," he said. "When that starts happening, why do you have that player around?"

Ayanbadejo later walked back those comments, saying he believed his release had more to do with his age and his high salary.

When he came out as gay last week, NBA player Jason Collins publicly acknowledged the important role that Ayanbadejo and Kluwe each had in promoting acceptance of LGBT athletes in the sports world.

"I'm impressed with the straight pro athletes who have spoken up so far -- Chris Kluwe, Brendon Ayanbadejo," Collins wrote in Sports Illustrated. "The more people who speak out, the better, gay or straight."

This story has been updated to include comment from the Minnesota Vikings.