What is your freedom of speech costing you?

Brittany JordanI am a diehard Minnesota Vikings fan. Even though they consistently lose and still refuse to draft a decent quarterback, I will continue to wear my jersey and braids with pride.

So let’s just say that I wasn’t particularly surprised when I got word that the Vikings released their punter, Chris Kluwe, out of his contract. While the 2012 season was a personal best for Kluwe, the Vikings still decided that after eight years, they’ve had enough. His performance was inconsistent at best, and at 31 years old, whisperings of retirement were beginning. But what did surprise me was the possible hidden agenda behind his release.

Chris Kluwe has used his position in the NFL as a soapbox for his advocacy of same-sex rights for many years now. Upon his signing to the Minnesota Vikings in 2005 as an unlisted free-agent, he has been very vocal about his political agendas, gay rights in particular. He began a blog that appeared in the St. Paul Pioneer Press and ran until 2012, when the editorial board of that publication showcased their support for the Minnesota Marriage Amendment Act, which would ban same-sex marriage and caused Kluwe to pull his column.

When asked about his recent release from the Vikings organization, he told Chip Scoggins of the Star Tribune that, while he hopes to continue to play in the NFL, “I think making people aware of an issue that is causing children to commit suicide is more important than kicking a leather ball.”

While the Vikings are officially citing his age, salary and inconsistent play as factors in Kluwe’s release, it’s hard to ignore the fact that the organization may be cutting their political ties while they can. Kluwe has been in hot water many times over his profanity-laced letters to professional organizations regarding their refusal to support same-sex rights and a separate incident regarding Hall of Fame admittance, and it would make sense why the Vikings wouldn’t want to be affiliated with such an extreme — and seen by some as tasteless — campaign. On top of that, the relationship between Kluwe and the Vikings’ special teams coordinator Mike Priefer was more than strained because of his blatant agendas regarding controversial issues and spotty performance.

While the actual reasons behind Kluwe’s release are debatable, I have to wonder: while legally our freedom of speech is protected, how much can we actually say before suffering social and professional repercussions?

As a society, we’re torn. We want people to be passionate about their beliefs, but when we get down to it, we don’t want to be affiliated with “extremists” either. As Americans, we pride ourselves on the whole freedom of speech thing, but shy away from people that disagree with our choice of views. Tasteful debate is encouraged in some venues, but discouraged in others.

Some praise Chris Kluwe for his advocacy campaign, others see it as tasteless and ineffectively confrontational. However, Kluwe may have learned the hard way that while his freedom of speech is protected by law, his career is not.

I can admire him for his passion. I can respect him for his advocacy. I think he’s an idiot for letting his passion and advocacy jeopardize his career.

There is a point where we need to learn to hold our tongues. There are appropriate venues for letting your political flag fly, but the NFL is not one of them. When we get down to percentages and statistics, Kluwe is an iffy player to begin with, and it would make sense that his controversial same-sex advocacy became the straw that broke the camel’s back with special teams coordinator Mike Priefer, ending with his release.

Should you stand up for what you believe in? Absolutely, but you also have to realize that there comes a point that people don’t want to hear it anymore. You have to analyze what your public support could cost you in the long run.

The right to freedom of speech is all well and good on paper, but when applying it to everyday life you can see the strings attached. There are conditions to the right to say whatever you see fit, and you have to learn to operate within these conditions, lest you find yourself jobless and/or friendless. There is a distinct difference between socially appropriate political advocacy and tasteless agenda-pushing; make sure that your freedom of speech is not costing you more than it’s worth.

Brittany Jordan is a junior psychology major. He column appears every Thursday in the Collegian. Letters and feedback can be sent to letters@collegian.com.