A former punter for the NFL is in a conflict with his former team over whether he was terminated as a result of his advocacy in favor of same-sex marriage. Chris Kluwe was known by sports fans as a punter for the Vikings before he was compelled to take action and speak out on the issue of same-sex marriage. Now Mr. Kluwe says that his activism made him a target on the team and that his boss made homophobic comments and eventually fired him for his comments supporting the gay community. Now many are watching as an independent investigation proceeds and Mr. Kluwe engages in a media campaign to prove that he was fired for the wrong reasons.
There is some question as to whether he would be successful in a wrongful termination lawsuit, since he was not fired for being gay himself or being a member of another minority group.
One interesting element to this case is the insistence by the team that Mr. Kluwe was let go from the team as a result of his on-field performance. Mr. Kluwe and various news organizations have pointed out that he ranks well overall in punters in the league and has had a consistent average number of yards per punt in the past few years. In fact, the punter that the Vikings have chosen to replace Mr. Kluwe has a slightly lower average distance per punt.
Employee evaluations and performance metrics are often looked to as a factor in determining whether there were ulterior motives to the firing. In cases where employees have had consistently positive reviews and have had few official complaints about their work or workplace conduct, it may seem more likely that the motivation behind the firing was nefarious.
Source: CNN, “Chris Kluwe: I was fired after I started speaking out about same-sex marriage,” Steve Almasy, Jan. 7, 2014.