Ethics Hero: Minnesota Vikings Punter Chris Kluwe

Chris Kluwe is the kicker. Emmett Burns is the football.

I can’t highlight Maryland state delegate Emmett C. Burns’ effort to use his position and power to stifle free speech and political discourse without honoring NFL player Chris Kluwe, who put Burns in his place with an online open letter of remarkable clarity, passion and venom. Yes, it was not civil; it was, in fact, frequently obscene. Nonetheless, his indignation, expressed in a colorful upgrade of the language of the locker room, was well-earned. When an elected official in a supposed democracy starts trying to use his power to shut up citizens who disagree with him, maximum shaming is paramount. In this case, a little obscenity helped get the word out (and made it fun to read, too). Highlights of Kluwe’s polemic:

  • “I find it inconceivable that you are an elected official of Maryland’s state government. Your vitriolic hatred and bigotry make me ashamed and disgusted to think that you are in any way responsible for shaping policy at any level.”
  • “As I suspect you have not read the Constitution, I would like to remind you that the very first, the VERY FIRST Amendment in this founding document deals with the freedom of speech, particularly the abridgment of said freedom. 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,” more specifically Brendon Ayanbadejo, 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?”
  • ” [Quoting Burns] ‘Many of your fans are opposed to such a view and feel it has no place in a sport that is strictly for pride, entertainment, and excitement.’ Holy fucking shitballs. Did you seriously just say that, as someone who’s ‘deeply involved in government task forces on the legacy of slavery in Maryland’? Have you not heard of Kenny Washington? Jackie Robinson? As recently as 1962 the NFL still had segregation, which was only done away with by brave athletes and coaches daring to speak their mind and do the right thing, and you’re going to say that political views have ‘no place in a sport’? 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 (the Russian judge gives you a 10 for “beautiful oppressionism”)…”
  • “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. They won’t even overthrow the government in an orgy of hedonistic debauchery because all of a sudden they have the same legal rights as the other 90 percent of our population—rights like Social Security benefits, child care tax credits, Family and Medical Leave to take care of loved ones, and COBRA healthcare for spouses and children. You know what having these rights will make gays? Full-fledged American citizens just like everyone else, with the freedom to pursue happiness and all that entails. Do the civil-rights struggles of the past 200 years mean absolutely nothing to you?”
  • “P.S. I’ve also been vocal as hell about the issue of gay marriage so you can take your “I know of no other NFL player who has done what Mr. Ayanbadejo is doing” and shove it in your close-minded, totally lacking in empathy piehole and choke on it. Asshole.”


Well done, Chris Kluwe. Gore Vidal would be proud. Who needs Dan Savage? For an NFL player to frame the appropriate retort to Burns was perfect, and Kluwe kicked his through the goalposts. Burns was sufficiently shamed that he backed down, still idiotic to the last, as he told the Baltimore Sun,

“Upon reflection, he [Ayanbadejo] has his First Amendment rights. And I have my First Amendment rights. … Each of us has the right to speak our opinions. The football player and I have a right to speak our minds.”

Wrong, Mr. Burns. Ayanbadejo has a right to speak his mind, but that pesky First Amendment specifically says that you, as an elected official of the government, cannot speak your mind in a way that threatens government action in order to inhibit free speech.



Facts: Deadspin


Graphic: Politico

Ethics Alarms attempts to give proper attribution and credit to all sources of facts, analysis and other assistance that go into its blog posts. If you are aware of one I missed, or believe your own work was used in any way without proper attribution, please contact me, Jack Marshall, at

5 thoughts on “Ethics Hero: Minnesota Vikings Punter Chris Kluwe

  1. Pingback: Ethics Alarm, Issues Unknown « Business, Society, and Government 4

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