Chris Kluwe

On this date in 1981, Christopher James Kluwe, athlete, author and activist, was born in Philadelphia to Ronald and Sandra Kluwe. He grew up in California and graduated from Los Alamitos High School before enrolling at UCLA, where he graduated in 2005 with majors in political science and history.

Kluwe excelled in high school and college as a football punter and placekicker, skills that led him to join the Minnesota Vikings of the National Football League in 2005. He spent seven seasons with the Vikings as one of the top punters in the league and set 14 individual punting records for the franchise before retiring in 2014. While playing he was an outspoken advocate for LGBTQ rights and same-sex marriage and was named grand marshal of the Twin Cities Pride parade in 2013. Ellen DeGeneres, a Packers fan, named him the first inductee in her TV show’s Hall of Fame.

In 2012, after Baltimore Ravens linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo spoke out in favor of a Maryland ballot initiative to legalize gay marriage, state delegate Emmett Burns Jr. urged Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti to “inhibit such expressions from your employee.” Kluwe responded to Burns in an open letter: “It baffles me that a man such as yourself, a man who relies on that same First Amendment to pursue your own religious studies without fear of persecution from the state, could somehow justify stifling another person’s right to speech. To call that hypocritical would be to do a disservice to the word.”

He also clashed with Vikings management and threatened to sue the team in 2014 over alleged homophobic remarks by special teams coordinator Mike Priefer. Kluwe also alleged he was released by the Vikings due to his activism. After an independent investigation, the team suspended Priefer for three games, announced a $100,000 contribution to LGBTQ charities and pledged to enhance sensitivity training. Kluwe, who did not receive any money, and the team have since mended their relationship. In 2018 the Vikings were the first NFL franchise to host a large-scale summit focused on the inclusion of gay athletes.

He published Beautifully Unique Sparkleponies: On Myths, Morons, Free Speech, Football, and Assorted Absurdities in 2013, a collection of short essays, vignettes, letters, digressions, lists, rants and complaints. “Who Is John Galt?” is one of the essays. In it he takes apart the hero of Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged, calling Galt “a remorseless shark feeding on those unable to get out of his way.”

With Andrew Reiner, he published the science fiction novel Prime: A Genesis Series in 2015. Kluwe’s futuristic novel Otaku, geared to young adults, was released in 2020 and features a black female protagonist who is one of the world’s top gamers. Its themes include bullying and online hate speech directed at women gamers. (The Gamergate controversy in 2014 stemmed from a vicious harassment campaign against female video game developers and progressive politics and culture.)

Kluwe married Maria Isabel Alvarado in 2004 near the end of his UCLA years. Thеу hаvе twо daughters, Remy аnd Olivia, born in 2008 аnd 2010. Kluwe describes himself as “cheerfully agnostic” and spoke at the 2014 American Atheists annual convention. 

Freedom From Religion Foundation