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Chris Kluwe says equal rights are more important than football

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Chris Kluwe
Chris Kluwe is shown during Minnesota Vikings minicamp in a file photo from June 21, 2012, in Eden Prairie, Minn.
AP Photo/Jim Mone

Chris Kluwe, the punter released Monday by the Minnesota Vikings, said Tuesday that he wasn't sure what role his outspokenness might have played in the team's decision to let him go.

"I don't know, because I'm not in the team meetings ... where they talk about that stuff," he said in an interview with The Daily Circuit's Tom Weber. "The only thing I can control is going out and punting to the best of my ability."

When team officials informed him of the move, Kluwe said, they said "they wanted to move in a different direction and thanked me for my hard work and great service over the years and wished me the best of luck moving forward."

If his opinions did contribute to the decision, he said, he had no regrets. "I wouldn't change anything for the world," he said. "We're talking about something that causes young children and adults to commit suicide, the fact that they have to hide their sexuality or they get bullied or they get teased. To me, if there's any way I can help with that, that's worth far more than kicking a small leather football around." 

Kluwe ranks first in Vikings history for average punting distance over his career. But the team indicated it wanted a younger punter last month, when it drafted Jeff Locke from UCLA. 

Kluwe said he would find out by Tuesday afternoon whether another team would take him off waivers, which would be a "good sign, because that means they really want me to punt for them." If not, he said, his agent would get to work looking for a team that would be a good fit for him.

The punter said his body is "definitely still holding up" and predicted he would play "at least four or five more years. ...  As a punter, 31 is [when] you're in your prime. Most punters play till they're 35 or 36, some players end up playing past 40."

Kluwe is known for his vocal support of same-sex marriage. He was a prominent opponent of last year's proposed constitutional amendment that would have defined marriage as a union of one man and one woman. He said that when he first got involved in the effort to defeat the amendment, "I went and cleared it with our team's legal department."

Asked about the possibility that other teams might be reluctant to hire him based on his record off the field,  Kluwe said, "You would hope that the NFL isn't an organization like that." Players should "get a legitimate chance to compete based on their athletic abilities and not what happens elsewhere." Plenty of other players have created distractions in their personal lives, he said, and "Those guys haven't had any problem finding work."

  "I just want to go out and show that I can still punt at a high level, and hopefully a team will take me on."

Kluwe has also written a book scheduled for release in coming weeks, titled "Beautifully Unique Sparkleponies."

The Minnesota Vikings say their decision to release Kluwe was based on performance and salary. But Kluwe's political activism led some to ask whether his outspokenness might have played a role in the team's decision.

And some believe a punter should just keep quiet as a rule, according to USA Today, including Vikings special teams coach Mike Priefer.

"Those distractions are getting old for me, to be quite honest with you," Priefer said after Kluwe was fined $5,250 for wearing an unapproved tag on his jersey in December.