Ex-NFLer Ayanbadejo agrees Vikings canned Kluwe due to gay rights stance

Ex-NFL players Chris Kluwe and Brendon Ayanbadejo speak onstage at the fifth annual PFLAG National...

Ex-NFL players Chris Kluwe and Brendon Ayanbadejo speak onstage at the fifth annual PFLAG National Straight for Equality Awards at Marriott Marquis Hotel on April 4, 2013 in New York City. (Getty Images for PFLAG/AFP)

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, Last Updated: 10:18 AM ET

Former NFLer Chris Kluwe believes he was released by the Minnesota Vikings in large part due to his continued support of same-sex marriage.

And at least one ex-NFLer is backing Kluwe’s explosive claims.

In a first-person column posted Thursday to sports gossip website Deadspin, the 32-year-old outspoken punter described how Vikings head coach Leslie Frazier told him he "needed to be quiet, and stop speaking out on this stuff" during his time as a spokesperson for Minnesotans for Marriage Equality.

In the column, Kluwe, let go by the Vikings in May 2013, states he is "pretty confident" the club released him almost exclusively based on his activism. After eight seasons in Minnesota, Kluwe is still without a new NFL home.

Now, Brendon Ayanbadejo, who last played for the Baltimore Ravens in 2012, says Kluwe’s claims are “100% right.”

Like Kluwe, the 37-year-old Ayanbadejo is a staunch supporter of gay rights and a long-time friend of the ex-NFL punter.

"You’re talking about a guy who was first or second in every NFL punting category in terms of performance in Minnesota Vikings history,” Ayanbadejo told TMZ. “All of a sudden he’s no longer on the team?

“He’s absolutely right," Ayanbadejo continued. "I’ve been saying it all along. It’s a pretty jacked up situation … He wanted to address inequalities in our society. He went and he did that and the NFL tries to keep you in a box. He went out there and did what he thought was right.

“Chris did what was right for him. You have to play the game. Chris didn’t reveal everything he knew until he felt like his NFL career was over.”

Originally, the Vikings had given Kluwe the green light to support gay rights as long as he did so as a private citizen and not a member of the team. Kluwe said he followed those guidelines throughout the 2012 season.

Despite producing career average numbers in the 2012 season, special-teams coach Mike Priefer grew increasingly cold towards Kluwe, the punter claims, adding Priefer purposefully used homophobic slurs when he was within earshot.

In another instance, Kluwe said Vikings general manager Rick Spielman sent him a text message demanding he "please fly under the radar please" shortly after Kluwe had finished ranting on Twitter about the Catholic church looking down on gay marriage.


WATCH KLUWE IN A RECENT INTERVIEW WITH CNN


The Vikings released a statement Thursday:

"The Minnesota Vikings were made aware of Chris Kluwe’s allegations for the first time today. We take them very seriously and will thoroughly review this matter.

"As an organization, the Vikings consistently strive to create a supportive, respectful and accepting environment for all of our players, coaches and front office personnel. We do not tolerate discrimination at any level. The team has long respected our players’ and associates’ individual rights, and, as Chris specifically stated, Vikings ownership supports and promotes tolerance, including on the subject of marriage equality. Because he was identified with the Vikings, Chris was asked to be respectful while expressing his opinions. Team ownership and management also repeatedly emphasized to Chris that the Vikings would not impinge on his right to express his views.

"Any notion that Chris was released from our football team due to his stance on marriage equality is entirely inaccurate and inconsistent with team policy. Chris was released strictly based on his football performance.

"We will have further comment at the appropriate time.

Preifer also released a statement:

"I vehemently deny today’s allegations made by Chris Kluwe.

"I want to be clear that I do not tolerate discrimination of any type and am respectful of all individuals. I personally have gay family members who I love and support just as I do any family member.

"The primary reason I entered coaching was to affect people in a positive way. As a coach, I have always created an accepting environment for my players, including Chris, and have looked to support them both on and off the field.

"The comments today have not only attacked my character and insulted my professionalism, but they have also impacted my family. While my career focus is to be a great professional football coach, my number one priority has always been to be a protective husband and father to my wife and children.

"I will continue to work hard for the Minnesota Vikings, the Wilf family and all of our loyal fans."


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