Minnesota Vikings punter Chris Kluwe has a few choice words for a Maryland politician

In case you were wondering how some NFL players feel about marriage equality, Chris Kluwe, punter for the Minnesota Vikings, is in support. Vocal support. Very vocal support. He also supports fellow player Brendon Ayanbadejo, linebacker for the Baltimore Ravens, who recently voiced his own support for marriage equality. Why? Because this November, there is a ballot initiative in the state of Maryland to legalize same-sex marriage, and Ayanbadejo thought his opinion might interest people in the state for whom he plays professional football. Well, one Maryland politician who does not support marriage equality, one Emmett C. Burns Jr., said that an NFL player expressing such an opinion "has no place" in the sport, and that team owners should "inhibit such expressions from [their] employees." Really. A politician -- a defender of the United States Constitution -- told a football team to "inhibit... expressions" by their players -- expressions that are explicitly allowed to be uninhibited by the First Amendment of the United States Constitution.

Kluwe, writing in a guest post on Deadspin, was not pleased with Mr. Burns' request, and he has responded using some delightfully colorful language that may or may not include the word "cockmonster."

I encourage everyone to read Kluwe's full post at Deadspin, but I will include some of the more entertaining excerpts here:

On First Amendment rights:

By using your position as an elected official (when referring to your constituents so as to implicitly threaten the Ravens organization) to state that the Ravens should "inhibit such expressions from your employees," ... not only are you clearly violating the First Amendment, you also come across as a narcissistic fromunda stain. What on earth would possess you to be so mind-boggingly stupid? 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. Mindfucking obscenely hypocritical starts to approach it a little bit.

On not seeing the parallels between anti-segregation athletes of decades past and pro-marriage equality athletes:

I can't even begin to fathom the cognitive dissonance that must be coursing through your rapidly addled mind right now; the mental gymnastics your brain has to tortuously contort itself through to make such a preposterous statement are surely worthy of an Olympic gold medal...

On possible reasons to fear the legalization of marriage equality in Maryland:

If gay marriage becomes legal, are you worried that all of a sudden you'll start thinking about penis? "Oh shit. Gay marriage just passed. Gotta get me some of that hot dong action!" Will all of your friends suddenly turn gay and refuse to come to your Sunday Ticket grill-outs? (Unlikely, since gay people enjoy watching football too.)

And why Mr. Burns should not be afraid of marriage equality:

I can assure you that gay people getting married will have zero effect on your life. They won't come into your house and steal your children. They won't magically turn you into a lustful cockmonster.

And there you have it! A full-fledged NFL player eloquently standing up in support of marriage equality. How the phrase "lustful cockmonster" didn't make it into any convention speeches these past couple of weeks is a mystery and a shame.

“They Won’t Magically Turn You Into A Lustful Cockmonster”: Chris Kluwe Explains Gay Marriage To The Politician Who Is Offended By An NFL Player Supporting It [Deadspin]


    1. Hell, I think I just became a lustful cockmonster.

      (In fairness, he only said that gay marriage wouldn’t turn anyone gay. He didn’t say anything about straight punters.)

    1. Mr. Kluwe is a punter, who are not often accused of being meatheads. However, the original player who voiced his opinion in favor of marriage equality, Mr. Ayanbadejo, is a linebacker, who are often accused of being meatheads.

      1. I thought most people thought linebackers were smart. Offensive linemen just have to understand and follow instructions. Defensive players have to understand what’s going on and improvise a response to novel situations.

        But back to the original topic: Why can’t football players make public statements about controversial issues?  Seems to me they should be able to, and I’d say the same thing if some football player said that God would smite us for allowing gay marriage.

        An employer should not be a slavemaster.

        1. Pro football players, who have written contracts and a tough union, are among the very small number of employees who can make public statements about controversial issues without fear of immediate job repercussions. 

          Most employers are smart enough not to ride herd over what their employees do off the clock, especially where politics are concerned… but in most cases, nothing’s stopping them, either.

        2. Actually, most defenses are considered the “criminals” and most offensives are considered the intellectual ones. You actually have your statement reversed, which means i am assuming you never played organized football before. Offense have to read the defense; defense will typically key up on certain players line ups and adjust according to where offense players are positioned, and then make the choice of defense and do stunts and/or movements from there. In the mean time, after the offense lines up, they then call out their blocking assignments and pulls based upon the response the defense had to their formation. As you pointed out, defense players are the reactive types, but offense has more of a strategy element as they account for defensive players and often double team on first, second, and third level of defense (d line, to linebacker, to secondary). 

          Of course, this is a pretty large generalization, but its basically what happens in the 10-15 seconds from huddle break to snap. Offense is not the follow instruction kind of play; that is actually the defense where you have to be very disciplined to keep YOUR position and rely on your team to play theres, and when the ball snaps, hold your own while assisting the play as best possible.

          1. Well, ok, but the comment you’re responding to only implied that offensive LINEMEN have less dynamic jobs and fewer decisions to make than LINEBACKERS. Which is more or less true. Linebackers have a lot more to pay attention to than linemen on either side of the ball (and I’m willing to admit that as a former D-Tackle). The point being made was more about different positions than about defense vs. offense. So you’re sort of debunking a claim that wasn’t made in the first place.

          2. Offensive linemen know what the play is going to be. Sure, they might have to vary their play based on the defensive stance they face, but the defense has no idea what the play is going to be, so they have to use their intelligence to improvise a response.

        3. “Why can’t football players make public statements about controversial issues?”

          They can. Nothing will come of this Maryland pol’s letter. The NFL (and a lot of other sports leagues) has a pretty good track record of letting their employees speak their minds.

          The rest of us non-union workers are actually less protected, legally, but it’s rare that any major employer ould make a stir over their employees’ political statements.

        4. Fairly off-topic, here, but interestingly offensive linemen, despite seemingly being in the NFL based on raw physical size, score among the highest of any position on pre-draft intelligence tests. Defensive players in total score significantly less than offensive ones.

          To rear slightly back on topic, Kluwe is a pretty frequent blogger / tweeter / interviewee… professional sports are certainly more interesting when players have actual opinions and choose to express them, though it’s rarely in their best (career) interests to do so.

      2. The Ayenbadejo brothers grew up in my hometown of Santa Cruz, CA. Both the town and Santa Cruz High are pretty progressive, we had a LGBT club when I started SCHS in 1992. Maybe that’s part of where the reasonable came from.

          1. I know plenty of progressive Midwesterners, but NFL players do not typically originate from the town for which they play, so I’m not sure why this is relevant.

  1. That guy is just worried that the rubes might think twice if some manly man in the NFL is standing up for what’s right.
    And he’s an asshole, of course.  Like all bigots are.

  2. Talk about some happy reading to not only start of a great weekend, but also sufficient inspiration to do what is right, dagnabbit!

  3. I guess we’re still doing something right in this country if that’s the level of discourse our football players engage in.

    1.  I’ve seen writing from a variety of people, some of whom do it professionally, who failed to express themselves as clearly, thoughtfully, and inventively as Mr. Kluwe has.  This is a literary epic win, and the source just is the awesomesauce.

  4. This may be the first time in history the word ‘eloquently’ was used to describe a passage that included the words “cockmonster” and “narcissistic fromunda stain.” I am so proud that I got to witness this moment.

  5. How nice to hear that Tim Tebow is not the only player in the NFL

    Mind you, I’m still not gonna watch footbal.

  6. Burns is a Baptist minister who’s using his political position to further his religious agenda. the residents of Baltimore County need to get his ass OUT of office for this behavior.

      1. agreed.  add to that the fact that Maryland politicians seem to get away with saying whatever the hell they want, and it’s a lose-lose for the folks he’s supposedly representing.

        i’m almost glad i don’t live in the county anymore.  almost.  city living isn’t much better.

  7. “Congress shall make no law…”. The Ravens organization can do whatever it wants. Unless this a-hole tries to pass a law about NFL players, there’s no violation of the First Amendment going on here.

    Seriously the Bill of Rights isn’t that long — people should read it. There’s a link in the post above.

    1. When an elected official who claims to be “speaking for his constituents” tries to use his position to make a private organization “inhibit” the “expression” of its employees, it comes rather close to that line.

      Legally, it’s probably not a violation of the First Amendment, but he’s dead on about the hypocrisy involved in such an act.

      1.  Trades happen all the time in professional sports. 

        We’ll give them Mark Frauenfelder for a week.

          1. Process of elimination.  Cory is obviously owned by the Canadian Football League.  Rob would find “football” to be a completely different sport (soccer).  And I couldn’t bear to see either Maggie or Xeni get tackled.

            So, really, we’re down to David or Mark.

            Mark lost the skeptacally coin toss.

          2. @boingboing-b0896ded63580d157d92e84db4f0b064:disqus  – Why do you hate Antinous  so?
            We could send him to Deadspin… I have a feeling he knows his way around a lockerroom ;)

  8. I can’t help wishing the Baltimore Ravens could respond to Mr. Burns with the classic, “I feel that you should be aware that some asshole is signing your name to stupid letters.”

  9. Not since Lee Ermey played Gunny Hartman have I enjoyed such a spectacular example of “blue prose”! This guy kicks butt nearly as well as he kicks footballs. He’s a credit to his team, and at least one true patriot that understands the constitution. Kudos!

  10. This Burns guy is no master strategist. He’s successfully given the target of his ill-advised letter at least 1,000 times the public support that he had before the letter was written. I’ve seen 3 blog posts on various sites about this today, having never, frankly, heard of Ayanbadejo before. So well done, doofus.

    Seriously, though, awesome to see professional athletes standing up for a cause that so recently was at odds with the image of machismo. It’s no longer considered manly to be a bigot, and that’s pretty cool.

    1. Oh, I’ll always hate football.  I grew up in central Texas where football is the state-sanctioned religion, fervently embraced by the masses.  As a big guy who actually preferred playing the bassoon to getting concussions, I was excommunicated from the society of my teens, scorned, and, when I was lucky, ignored.  When I wasn’t so lucky, I was getting the shit beat out of me for not fitting in.

      Football is almost pure evil.  It’s nice to see an occasional exception to the rule…but the rule still stands.

      Of course, if I knew then what I know now I would have played football.  It would have cost me a few IQ points and all my self-respect but at least I would have gotten laid a lot sooner.

      1. if I knew then what I know now I would have played football.

        If I knew then what I know now, I would have seduced the jocks and gotten it on tape.

  11. I mean, good for this punter and this linebacker and good for that basketball player I was reading about the other day, but what this is really saying is that gay marriage is basically mainstream in your metropolitan areas more or less large enough to support a major sports franchise.

    On the expressway I use each weekday morning, one of those billionaire-proxy SuperPacs has placed a billboard saying “Obama supports abortion and gay marriage.  Do you?” and each time I see it, I swear I think that the right has miscalculated, that a majority of people driving by say to themselves, “why, yes, yes I do,” and are thus reminded each and every day why they might vote for our sitting president this November, despite the stubborn tough times.

    Forward progress in this Republic is more or less inevitable, if you’re patient enough, and don’t mind some struggle, and I think that in this case it is most illuminatingly measured by punters and linebackers.

  12. I would like to take a moment to talk about the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, as it seems from this article that there is some confusion about what it  means (under the current standards anyways, it fluctuates from time to time depending on Supreme Court rulings).

    While the Free Speech clause states that no law shall be passed  abridging the freedom of speech, there is actually a wide variety of laws which curtail speech in a myriad of ways.

    We should start with the most famous historical example, specifically that one cannot shout “fire” in a crowded theater. Modernly, there are many laws which abrogate different varieties of speech, and which are legal under the Constitution.  For “pure” speech, laws must pass the Brandenburg standard, which allows government to pass regulations curtailing speech which incites people to undertake imminent lawless action, and is likely to do so. . 
    (see here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brandenburg_v._Ohio )

    Defamatory speech is another example of a type of speech that can be curtailed by law under certain circumstance despite the language of the 1st Amendment. Laws may be made curtailing defamation using a different standard than the one mention above.
     (see here to learn more about the modern standard of defamatory speech which is not protected by the 1st Amendment: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_York_Times_Co._v._Sullivan )

    There are still other standards for obscenity, expressive conduct, and so forth, all of which are fascinating if you have the time and inclination to dig around in this area. My point is simply that there are many many laws curtailing all types of speech, in spite of the text of the 1st Amendment. With that out of the way, this next bit might really surprise you.

    Even if your speech is protected under the 1st Amendment, it is important to know that purely private employers are not generally subject to the 1st Amendment, and may inhibit the speech of their employees (I’m using a broad brush here, as always, there are complicated exceptions). For instance,  if I worked at a mega-sized coffee chain, and I told a customer that made a particularly ridiculous beverage order to “kindly get bent”, I would presumably be fired, and I would not be allowed (again, generally speaking) to sue my former employer for a civil rights violation under the First Amendment, even though they had fired me because of something I said. In a word: private employers are not subject to the 1st Amendment, only governments are.

    In my view, it is likely that a football team would be considered a private employer (although it is not totally certain, as there may be enough government involvement in the business, in the form of subsidies and so forth, to make it subject to the state action doctrine. See here if you are interested in learning more: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/State_action ) and so the owner may very well be able to restrict the speech of his players upon penalty of dismissal.

    This is all a very long way of saying this: The 1st Amendment is complicated. Saying speech is categorically “explicitly protected” is factually incorrect, because, as briefly illustrated above, there are many types of speech which can be curtailed legally. Probably even more importantly for this scenario, the Bill of Rights applies (generally) to government, not private companies.

     The politician, by saying what he did, was in my opinion not violating the 1st Amendment, he was actually exercising his freedom under it. What the football player wrote is in my opinion also (probably) protected under the 1st (although if I were saying it, I would want to run it by a 1st Amendment lawyer for a defamation check first, but I am paranoid…) This is the marketplace of ideas in action, and in my view, both sides should be allowed to continue to say whatever they like, no matter how ill advised or ill informed their comments might be.

    Finally, and in closing, I am not a grammar expert, but I think “Hot dong” is a compound adjective modifying “action”, and as such, there should be a hyphen between the words “Hot” and “Dong”.

    Thank you for your time.

    1. That’s actually one of the things I love the most about the freedom inherent in the First Amendment (As well as all of the others) – In all cases, but especially in the case of a moron like Burns, it pretty explicitly allows them all the rope they need to publicly hang themselves.

    2. Does it matter where or when the speech takes place?  Your example of telling a costumer to kindly get bent is pretty clearly during work hours in a service position relevant to the job, I could imagine a football player publicly (but not during game time) badmouthing the coaching staff and that being work related and being punished, but does legal precedent make any exemption for non work related speech one makes on one’s free time?  Did you see the story about the miners who were forced to attend a Mitt Romney political event, without pay, by their bosses?  I am sincerely curious how either  could possibly be legal.

      1. Hi Rachael,

        Happy to try and answer (but be ready to be disappointed).

        First of all, it is important to know that many states provide protections (in practically every realm, but for the purposes of this answer, we are talking about speech and labor protections) which are not supplied by the US Constitution. Therefore, the thoughts in my last post, were focused solely on what protection for speech the Constitution gives.

        So, with that out of the way, and with the understanding that we are just talking about the US Const, to answer your question, an employer would probably not be subject to any liability for firing an employee for out of workplace conduct or speech (I think Facebook posts are probably a pretty common source of these types of firings). I am not an expert in this particular area, but I think there may be some federal protections if the speech is political or religious in nature (and if this  speech was protected, I think it would be under federal civil rights statutes, and not the Constitution, but I am completely out of my depth at this point –Is there a civil rights or 1st Amendment lawyer in the house?).  In any event, that still would not save the barrista who found the annoying customer after work (from my above hypothetical) and told him to “kindly get bent” outside of the workplace and on his own time from being dismissed by his employer.

        As for state protections, many states have “at will” employment rules, meaning generally that employees may be fired by an employer at any time with or without cause. Other states make it more difficult to fire employees, and may even have free speech type statutes.

        I know practically nothing about even my state’s laws in this realm, much less other states, so I am going to leave it at that.  Sorry, I know it is not a very satisfying answer, but to sum up, generally one cannot reasonably expect the Constitution to protect them from being dismissed by a private employer because of speech whether in the workplace or elsewhere.

        1. Doubt it.  I’m pretty sure Starbucks employees are allowed to tell people off in their off-hours (I’m pretty sure I’ve seen it happen). 

          Starbucks could fire them without cause at any time whatsoever without any reason, but I seriously doubt speech performed outside the workplace constitutes cause for termination except in a handful of work situations (PR flacks need to uphold employer’s image, etc.).

          Edit: There’s also the fact that the congressman was trying to use his official position in the US government to stifle free expression. If he had just written an op-ed that those uppity athletes shouldn’t mouth off then that would clearly be protected speech, but his letter to the player’s employer could constitute a threat or be seen as having a chilling effect on the player’s speech rights.

          You should try to keep your word count down. Maybe you wouldn’t have to spend so much time explaining you’re not an expert if you weren’t trying to sound like an expert.

      2. Oh, Sorry, I missed your comment about the miners being forced to attend a rally without compensation.

        This is way outside of my area expertise I’m afraid, and would take a ton of space and time to fully explain, however to venture a brief guess, this (the miner thing you mentioned) does not seem to be an issue which would fall under the protections provided by the Bill of Rights, except possibly the 13th Amendment (Private employers and individuals cannot generally forcibly compel people to do things for free).( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/… )

        This sort of behavior would in my opinion more probably fall under the auspices of federal and state labor laws than in the realm of straight civil rights violations (barring some other facts, like the boss made the workers vote for someone, and so forth).

        Sorry again that I am left to guessing about this stuff, I wish I had a more satisfying answer. If you’d like to read a really great website about the 1st Amendment in general that is written by a law professor in easily accessible prose I would recommend:


        (Don’t let the older-looking design of the website fool you, its a great starting point to learn about the 1st Amendment in the same way people in law school learn it)

    1. Also, his Twitter profile includes a Carmen Sandiego joke. 

      Seriously, you guys, the nerds have infiltrated football. I can’t tell you how pleased this makes me. 

      Also, as I have said time and again, “Everything happens in the Midwest.” 

  13. Let me know when Emmett C. Burns Jr says Tim Tebow should shut up about his “lord and savior”, because methinks Mr. Burns is really only opposed to a player expressing an opinion he himself doesn’t agree with.

  14. Can we stop reacting to members of the state house of delegates as if they were spokesmen for America?  We have tens of thousands of elected officials in the United States.  If we can’t ignore any and all of them that have less constituents than the State of Alaska (plus one) then we spend too much time wrapping ourselves in knots over what the self-important #$!%!#$%!s have to say.

    1. So you’re spending time to let us know that you think what we’re doing is a waste of time?  I’m having trouble taking your position seriously.

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