The Eagles Should Sign Chris Kluwe

The bass-playing, World-of-Warcraft-gaming, gay-marriage-advocating punter is a fit for Philadelphia.

The Eagles staged their first big minicamp of the year this week, and most eyes are on new coach Chip Kelly, the multi-pronged quarterback competition, the integration of the club’s many rookies and free agents, and the sad, sad end of Taco Tuesday.

The minicamp, though, would’ve been much more interesting if a certain free agent punter had been invited. Chris Kluwe was recently released by the Minnesota Vikings, and for a lot of reasons, I think the Eagles should sign him.

For one thing, Kluwe’s a pretty good punter, and his net punting average of 39.7 in 2012 was a career high. The Eagles didn’t bring back incumbent punter Mat McBriar, and the two punters it has in camp are journeyman Donnie Jones and rookie free agent Brad Wing, an Australian who is not to be confused with El Wingador.

The 31-year-old Kluwe, though, is unique among NFL players in many ways. He plays bass in a prog rock band called Tripping Icarus. He’s an avid video gamer who favors World of Warcraft, and even uses @ChrisWarcraft for his Twitter account, which boasts more than 172,000 followers. He was once fined for wearing a uniform patch protesting the exclusion of punters from the Pro Football Hall of Fame. He’s also written hilarious guest posts for Deadspin, both defending the honor of kickers and punters against the notion that they’re glorified waterboys, and penning a rebuttal to an anti-gay politician that included the memorable phrase “lustful cockmonster.”

It’s that last issue that’s led to a lot of Kluwe’s notoriety. The punter, whose wife’s brother is gay, has become an unlikely advocate for same-sex marriage. He played a big role in the campaign for marriage equality in Minnesota, writing op-eds, making campaign ads and, at one point, “debating” an empty chair as part of a radio stunt. Kluwe even gave up a gig writing an online column for the St. Paul Pioneer Press, after that paper published an editorial in opposition to same-sex marriage.
Kluwe and another straight NFL player, Brendon Ayanbadejo, filed an amicus brief to the U.S. Supreme Court in the currently pending gay marriage case, and both players were thanked by NBA player Jason Collins in his recent coming-out article in Sports Illustrated.

In early 2011, Republicans who then controlled Minnesota’s legislature placed an initiative for a constitutional amendment that would ban same-sex marriage on the November 2012 ballot, hoping to use it as a voter turnout gimmick. The strategy backfired spectacularly, as the initiative was defeated, Democrats reclaimed both houses of the legislature, and on Tuesday, Gov. Mark Dayton signed a law making Minnesota the 12th state to allow same-sex marriage.

Kluwe was so vocal on the issue that some speculated it had something to do with his release by the Vikings, although I’m skeptical of that; the Vikings drafted a younger and cheaper rookie punter in the fifth round this year and cut the veteran to make room for him., generally the leading authority on such matters, agrees.

Other than Minnesota and Washington, every state with marriage equality is in the Northeast. All of New England allows same-sex marriage, as do New York, Delaware, Maryland and Washington, D.C. New Jersey, the next time it has a governor who isn’t a Republican with presidential hopes, is likely to follow. This fight hasn’t yet come to Pennsylvania, although it sort of feels like it’s only a matter of time. And when it does, the debate would certainly be enlivened by Kluwe’s participation.

Another reason for Eagles fans to love Kluwe? He, too, has been disappointed by Donovan McNabb. During McNabb’s brief post-Eagles run with the Vikings in 2011, Kluwe agreed to relinquish the #5 jersey to Donovan, in exchange for McNabb donating to a charity of Kluwe’s choice and mentioning the punter’s band in a certain number of press conferences. After Donovan was released, Kluwe said that McNabb hadn’t made the promised donation, although he eventually did.

In an age in which there’s always a lot of teeth-gnashing from fans about athletes, about both the things they say, and when they don’t say anything, Kluwe is an honest-to-goodness personality. If Chip Kelly wants a guy who can shore up the Eagles’ kicking game, liven up the locker room, and represent the team well off the field, he could do a lot worse than Chris Kluwe.