The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Sports Columns

April 29, 2013

There's nothing wrong with punting and speaking

MANKATO — If you’ve hung around Vikings Training Camp in Mankato for any length of time, it doesn’t take long to figure out that the punters and kickers don’t have a heck of a lot to do.

If you’re sitting in the stands, those most-special of special-teams players can be seen — if you squint just right — two fields away, booting the occasional ball. But usually, they’re just standing around talking to each other, waiting for their 15 minutes of daily fame.

In most years and with most teams, those players are seen and not heard. As long as they’re not missing chip-shot field goals or shanking punts, few, including their coaches, are going to pay them much mind.

That started to change in recent years with the Vikings’ Chris Kluwe. The punter, who has been with Minnesota for his entire eight-year career, has gained a considerable amount of fame.

He became one of the first Vikings players to really embrace social media. He not only gained followers but he interacted with them and showed off his wit and character.

Others found him interesting because he played World of Warcraft and because he’s the bass player in a band called Tripping Icarus (a couple of summers ago, the group played in Mankato a few weeks before training camp began.)

When the Vikings signed quarterback Donovan McNabb in 2011, the longtime Philadelphia Eagles No. 5 had to “buy” his jersey number from Kluwe in exchange for a $5,000 donation to Kluwe’s favorite charity, some publicity for Kluwe’s band and an ice cream cone. The negotiation was broadcast on the Vikings’ website.

Kluwe took his fame from silly to serious last year when he became an outspoken advocate and champion for gay rights, including marriage equality.

In an era in which professional athletes shy away from political action as they become insulated by their sponsors and handlers, it was refreshing to see one — albeit a punter — actually stand up and fight for something on a national stage.

Not everyone felt that way, it seemed.

Last December, after Kluwe wore a patch on his jersey advocating punter Ray Guy be voted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, Vikings special teams coach Mike Priefer appeared to have enough of the grandstanding.

“To me, it’s getting old,” Priefer said. “He’s got to focus on punting and holding (for field goals).”

Focus? Has Priefer seen his punter in practice.

Despite Kluwe coming off one of his better seasons, the Vikings surprisingly drafted a punter, UCLA’s Jeff Locke, in the fifth round on Saturday.

General manager Rick Spielman said the pick had nothing to do with Kluwe’s off-the-field actions.

If Kluwe loses his job because he got outkicked in camp or because of salary cap concerns, fine. That happens in the NFL all the time. But he should not be cut because he chose to stand up for something and speak his mind.

Whether the move is justified or not, if Kluwe’s not in Mankato this July and August, he will be missed — more so for his voice than his leg.

Shane Frederick is a Free Press staff writer. Read his blog at, and follow him on Twitter @puckato.

Text Only | Photo Reprints
Sports Columns
  • Courrier: There are no winners in MSU football saga Where to start? In 28 years in the business, there has never been a more odd, twisted, rollercoaster story than the Todd Hoffner saga. And that was before he came back to the Minnesota State campus this week, when strange became tragic and the chance

    April 17, 2014

  • Thoma column: Twins are scoring lot of runs; can this continue? The Minnesota Twins entered Sunday's play with the American League's second-highest number of runs scored. And, they haven't had the advantage of hitting off their own pitching staff. OK, it's dreadfully early in the season, far too early to draw co

    April 14, 2014

  • Courrier: Masters is first sign that winter has been conquered Don't know if anybody noticed but it's been a tough winter, with brutal cold and piles of snow that are now just disappearing. If not for an exciting season of local basketball and hockey, it would have an unbearable four months. Minnesota State had

    April 10, 2014

  • Thoma column: We all know the Ryan Braun saga: Winner of the National League MVP award, flunked a drug test, convinced the arbitrator to toss his suspension on the basis that his sample was mishandled, was snagged anyway in the Biogenesis investigation, suspended

    April 7, 2014

  • Focus will be on Mavericks' QBs this spring The Minnesota State football team began its spring practice period this week, 14 workouts in 27 days, trying to see who has been working hard to maintain a starting position and which backups might be ready to get more playing time in the fall. The b

    April 4, 2014

  • Thoma column: For the remade Twins, 2014 looks like more losing The start of the baseball season is supposed to be about fresh beginnings, wide open promises and the hope that springs eternal in the human breast. I'm here to quash that kind of optimism among the followers of the Minnesota Twins. (I strive to be a

    April 1, 2014

  • Shot clock isn't answer for high-school basketball A few weeks back, the state's basketball fans were all riled up that during a state-tournament game, the Hopkins boys spent much of the four overtimes holding the basketball, preferring not to shoot until the final seconds of each extra period in the

    March 28, 2014

  • Thoma column: Projected lineup is Mauer, Arcia and a bunch of outs The Minnesota Twins begin play in earnest in less than a week -- weather permitting -- and wow, do they have lineup issues. They scored 614 runs last season, 13th in the 15-team American League and almost 100 under the league average (702). Justin Mo

    March 26, 2014

  • Thoma column: Perkins extension may not be such a relief over time In the abstract, long-term contracts for relief pitchers are bad bets for teams. Nobody seems to be too concerned about that rule of thumb when it comes to Glen Perkins' new deal with the Twins. The contract, worth more than $21 million in guaranteed

    March 17, 2014

  • Courrier: No. 1 seed has brought no guarantees for MSU Since the Minnesota State men's basketball team started this nearly annual tradition of playing in the NCAA II tournament, the home team has almost been unbeatable in the regional. The Mavericks have played in nine of the last 10 national tournaments

    March 14, 2014