By Sharon Salyer Herald Writer
Chris Kluwe, the longtime Minnesota Vikings punter, is coming to Everett.
His vociferous, sometimes profane defense of same-sex marriage last year brought him more national attention than his eight years in professional football.
Kluwe is the scheduled guest speaker at an Everett Community College event June 6 to celebrate the first two graduates from its newly established honors program.
Kluwe was invited to the event by Mark Kontulis, director of the college’s honors program and a member of the chemistry department faculty.
“We were looking for somebody who was going to be inspirational to our students, who had something to say and someone we thought people would want to hear,” Kontulis said.
Kontulis said as he began the search for a guest speaker last fall, he came across a New York Times profile of Kluwe.
It depicted a man of wide interests and abilities: someone who learned to play the violin by ear and plays in a rock band, loves sports, reads up to five books a week and doesn’t hesitate to speak his mind.
“I was inspired by how he was defying a stereotype, inspiring a generation, really speaking out for what he believes and speaking out for what is fair,” Kontulis said.
Kluwe came to national attention last year after a Maryland legislator fired off a letter to the owner of Baltimore Ravens football team. The letter criticized Brendon Ayanbadejo, a Ravens player, for supporting a state referendum establishing civil marriages for same sex couples.
Kluwe, infuriated, fired back. His online statement includes references to the First Amendment and the right of athletes to speak out on social issues. It also asserts that gay people should be allowed “the freedom to pursue happiness and all that entails.”
”I can assure you that gay people getting married will have zero effect on your life,” Kluwe wrote. “They won’t come into your house and steal your children. … 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, childcare tax credits, family and medical leave to take care of loved ones, and COBRA health care for spouses and children.”
The letter also included some colorfully worded profanity.
Kontulis said that in October he sent word to the Vikings that he was trying to contact Kluwe to invite him to speak at the EvCC event.
Kontulis said he eventually got a call from Kluwe saying, “I’d be honored to come. This sounds like an awesome, fun thing to do.”
Kluwe was cut from the Vikings earlier this month and signed with the Oakland Raiders last week.
Kluwe will speak at an event where EvCC’s first two graduates from its honors program, Dennice Bryant and Tu “Julian” Le, will make presentations on their final projects. The event is open to the public.
EvCC started the honors program in 2011. Among other requirements, students must complete a five-credit culminating project.
Kluwe was asked to discuss “what it’s like to stand up for what you believe in, in a world where that can be hard,” Kontulis said.
There weren’t any other guidelines for what Kluwe can — and can’t — say, Kontulis said. “I think he recognizes levels of appropriateness.”
Sharon Salyer: 425-339-3486 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Kluwe to speak June 6: Punter Chris Kluwe, a long-time Minnesota Vikings punter who with the Oakland Raiders, will be the guest speaker at Everett Community College’s celebration of its first graduates from the college’s honors program. The event is scheduled from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. June 6 at the college’s Henry M. Jackson Conference Center, 2000 Tower St. The event is open to the public.