How do I describe Chris Kluwe?
Chris Kluwe is flawless. Punter for the Minnesota Vikings. Dad. Gamer. Rockstar. Author. LGBT rights advocate. Coiner of the term “lustful cockmonster.”
The ultimate renaissance man, Mr. Kluwe has been making waves the last couple of months ever since he published a letter expressing his support for marriage equality. In the letter, Kluwe goes after Maryland state delegate Emmet C. Burns Jr. after Burns went after Baltimore Raven Brandon Ayanbadejo for publicly voicing his support for a Maryland initiative to legalize gay marriage. In what has got to be the best example of a straight man “reading” another I have ever seen, Kluwe famously said,
“…why do you hate freedom? Why do you hate the fact that other people want a chance to live their lives and be happy, even though they may believe in something different than you, or act different than you? How does gay marriage, in any way shape or form, affect your life? If gay marriage becomes legal, are you worried that all of a sudden you’ll start thinking about penis?…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…”
The internet, of course, rejoiced at Mr. Kluwe’s way with words and was quick to discover that not only is he an intelligent NFL-playing gay marriage supporter, he is also a gigantic nerd. Seriously. Huge. Regularly tweeting about World of Warcraft and his dependency on the internet, the Vikings punter finds himself at a curious intersection of geekdom, gaydom, and sportsdom.
I was lucky enough to catch up with the busy kicker and ask him his thoughts on everything from gay rights to video games to those new pants the NFL is using.
Let’s start with gaming, because that’s what we’re all here for: What are you playing right now?
Right now I’m playing Fire Emblem: Awakening on the 3DS and Ni No Kuni on ps3. Definitely enjoying Fire Emblem (I’m a sucker for turn based tactics games), and Ni No Kuni has a great atmosphere but probably the dumbest AI companions I’ve ever seen. It makes combat slightly frustrating.
What are you really looking forward to?
Top five games of all time. Go.
Final Fantasy 6, Ogre Battle: March of the Black Queen, Final Fantasy 7, Borderlands, Final Fantasy Tactics (ps1)
You seem to have a fondness for JRPGS. What is it about the genre that you find appealing?
Just the leveling up of characters and interesting combat/skill systems in them. The games I listed as my favorites though are there not because of the genre, though, it’s because they tell really good stories.
There’s been a lot of talk about the JRPG genre ‘dying’. What is your take on this?
I don’t know that it’s dying so much as tons of other genres now borrow JRPG elements, which means the typical JRPG is less likely to stand out. Almost every game has a form of character advancement now, which is something you didn’t see much of back in the SNES/Playstation days.
Have to ask: Do you play a lot of Madden and if so: do you play as yourself? Be honest.
I actually don’t play sports games, because I’m terrible at them. I think that’s considered irony.
I don’t know if you knew this but there’s a new console that just got announced. What are your feelings?
Indifferent. It’s the games that ultimately make a console, not necessarily what’s inside (though it would be nice if Nintendo upgraded to be in the same century as the rest of us once in a while).
Are you a Sony boy, a Microsoft man, a Nintendo nut, or a PC purist?
I’ll play them all. A good game is a good game, doesn’t matter what system.
LGBT issues in sports, just as with LGBT issues in gaming, has been a hot topic lately. A good number of straight athletes like yourself have begun to step forward on these issues. Just a few years ago that wasn’t the case. What’s changed?
Football is a reflection of society. As society changes, so do the viewpoints of those playing the game, and as more and more younger people are raised to tolerate and respect others, we see that reflection in sports.
I think you’re on to something with societal change bringing about change in industry, in this case the NFL. We’re seeing it in the gaming world too, with LGBT issues popping up all over the place and we’re even seeing the very first convention dedicated to LGBT gaming issues, GaymerX (formerly Gaymercon), which is coming up later this year.
That event has gotten its fair share of controversy for what some call reinforcing segregation while others laud it for celebrating diversity. I’d imagine an out NFL player would make headlines, but may want to be known as simply a ‘football player’ and not the ‘gay football player’. Or maybe he would, who knows. Any thoughts on that topic, whether in gaming, or in football, or in general?
Ultimately, I’d like to get to a point where it’s just part of who you are, not a label that separates you from other people – whether that be gaming, football, or life in general. Human beings are complex creatures, and our sexuality is just one of many many different factors that go into who we are as a whole.
We’ve seen a handful of big name athletes come out of the closet after retiring from their respective sport. As someone on the inside who knows what the world is like, when do you think we’ll see an out NFL player making waves?
Honestly I don’t know. It’s such an individual choice, and it’s so hard to make it to this level to begin with, that it’s really going to take someone who is very comfortable with who they are and also able to play at a high level despite any distractions that may occur. All we can do is help establish a framework to make it easier for that person, whoever it may be.
Athletes aren’t typically known for being outspoken, but people like you and Brendon Ayanbadejo (who hosted the EA Full Spectrum event) have really stepped forward. Now I’d imagine, especially with the NFL being so high profile, that they don’t want players just spouting off all the time. Do you ever get anybody knocking on your door saying “settle down with the gay stuff?” Or even, “stop tweeting so damn much.” You do tweet a lot.
Occasionally my coaches talk to me about it, but I always make sure that I’m not denigrating the team or allowing it to affect my performance on the field. Frankly, if someone wants to get upset about me speaking up for treating people the right way, then I really have no use for their opinion in the first place.
Chris Culliver of my hometown 49ers recently, and disappointingly I will add, made homophobic comments about what it would be like to have a gay player on the team and specifically in the locker room. You’ve made your stance on his comments clear in other interviews but just for our readers: What do you think about what Culliver had to say? And what about his issued apology?
I think his apology read like a press release, but I also think he legitimately realizes he made a mistake and is working to fix it. He recently volunteered to help out with Trevor’s Project, and we can’t just pile on to someone and then move on – we also have to recognize when they’re working to change and encourage that.
Do you think most people in the NFL are more of the Kluwe or the Culliver variety on these social issues? Is there a secret sect of the NFL full of floppy haired pro-gay nerds like yourself?
I think the majority of guys simply don’t care, much like the majority of society. They just want to be left alone to live their own lives in peace, and feel that others should have the same opportunity.
Taking his comments out of context a bit, do you think there’s any validity to what he had to say? Do you think there is an anti-gay locker room mentality?
I think there’s a small one (casual slurs and the like), but like I said earlier, the NFL is a very good cross-sampling of society as a whole, so it’s nothing different than exists out in the world today. Our job is to continue working to lower the percentage of people who feel that way by educating them on why it’s wrong to take away someone else’s freedom.
And for our readers out there who may be more versed in Animal Crossing than Madden, and certainly not in actual football, can you give us a glimpse into the locker room atmosphere? What’s your average pass through there like?
Guys talking about families, talking about parties, talking about sports, talking about video games, talking about work – really it’s no different than any other grouping of human beings on the planet. We just tend to run a little faster
Does it live up to the fantasies?
I would imagine not.
Photo Credit: David Bowman
What are your thoughts on the new Nike pants the NFL uses? A lot of gay networks have noted how…well, thin…they are. Anything different about them from a player’s perspective?
They’re more comfortable in terms of where the seams are and the flexibility they allow, but they definitely are much more transparent once you start sweating :p
We’ve talked games, we’ve talked gays, and we’ve talked football. Now let’s talk Kluwe.
We all know gays love jocks, but especially socially-conscious jocks. Ever since your letter to Emmett Burns got published the gays haven’t been able to get enough of the Kluwe. You even covered Out magazine. How do you feel about your new gay fanbase?
It provides another interesting component to my interactions on Twitter. Now I have 33% football followers, 33% video game followers, 33% gay/activist followers, and an elderly man from Japan who is very confused on how he ended up here.
You’ve got to tell me more about this elderly man from Japan.
His name is Manuel and he’s actually Latino.
Now being an NFL player, outspoken on gay rights issues, and a huge gamer you’ve got fans from three demographics that are, traditionally, seen as being far apart. How have fans from one demo or the other responded to your…multifaceted nature, let’s call it?
It’s fun to see the overlap between the demographics. Most people who don’t get my humor or interests have already been frightened off, so anyone who follows me now pretty much knows what they’re getting into, and for a lot of people, they don’t follow me just for one reason.
At the end of the day where does your heart belong: Football, the gaming, or the gays?
Well, the politically correct answer is “my wife and kids”, but gaming.
I’ve heard you mention in other interviews that your wife is a bigger game than you are. Have you guys gotten your kids hooked? Does gaming run in the family?
Heh, she’s more into watching actual sports games than I am (and really it’s only football). She doesn’t play very many video games, and the ones she does prefer are the old Mario Brothers and Street Fighter games. I am raising our daughters to play games though so they’ll probably be pretty good.
You have amazing hair. Final Fantasy characters WISH. What’s your secret? Give our readers a glimpse into the Kluwe haircare regimen.
My hairstyle secrets are to not care about it and have good genetics.
Besides gaming you’re also an avid twitterer and redditor. Any other nerd-cred we should know about? Larping? Brony-ing?
As far as other stuff, I’ve read just about every sci/fi fantasy book out there that’s worth reading. No larping or brony-ing though.
What sci-fi/fantasy novels have you been reading? Any reccomendations?
Pretty much whatever comes out. The new Harry Dresden book by Jim Butcher was great, as well as the new Culture book by Ian Banks. I also read an interesting one called The Six Gun Tarot that I enjoyed.
When you’re not gaming, playing football, kicking ass for LGBT equality, or being a family man, what else do you like to do with your free time?
Sit on the couch and eat chocolates.
And you have a book coming out, is that right? What can you tell us about that?
It’s called Beautifully Unique Sparkleponies, and it comes out June 25th. It’s a collection of short stories and essays about life, empathy, and assorted randomness that fills my head. Hopefully it should be entertaining.
You’re also in a band, correct? Quite the renaissance man.
I’ve always felt that you should do whatever you want to do (obviously always respecting other people’s rights along the way) – why limit yourself? Life is too short to get caught up in what you “should” be; make your own path.
Where do you see yourself years down the road? Still punting? Full time writer? Rockstar? Social Changer? Any big plans post-NFL?
No idea. I’ll let you know when I get there
Thanks so much for doing the interview Chris, it really means a lot and I’m sure our readers will appreciate your non-bottled candor.
bad Superman joke Any last words you’d like to share with the readers of GayGamer.net?
I talk about games a lot, but don’t forget about the real world. Treat others the way you’d like to be treated, with dignity and respect, but don’t be afraid to call out bullshit when you see it. Rational empathy is the only foundation for a sustainable society.
Photo Credit: David Bowman
Since the interview, Chris Kluwe and Brendon Ayanbadejo have joined forces to file a marriage equality brief with the Supreme Court, which will be hearing cases this week on Prop 8 and DOMA.
Chris has also appeared over on the Nerdist podcast with the adorable Chris Hardwick.
You go Chris Kluwe.