THURSDAY AUGUST 17, 2017
 
Blog TALKING TO
AUTHOR/ACTIVIST/PUNTER CHRIS KLUWE
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Author, activist, Oakland Raiders punter: This is the unique resume of Chris Kluwe, the "most interesting man in the NFL," according to the New York Times (and Ellen DeGeneres). 

Kluwe came to infamy when, in a 2012 open letter, he attacked homophobic Maryland state delegate Emmett C. Burns Jr., assuring the politician that gay people would not "magically turn [him] into a lustful cockmonster." The letter went viral and Kluwe instantly became one of the LGBT community's greatest allies in professional sports.

Just last week, Kluwe released Beautifully Unique Sparkleponies: On Myths, Morons, Free Speech, Football, and Assorted Absurdities with Hachette Canada.

Kluwe recently spoke with TORO from his home in California about letting biggots die, pissing people off, and (perhaps) moving to Canada.

Congrats on the DOMA strike down and Prop 8 appeal.

It's great to see. The DOMA case is awesome because it establishes rights for same sex marriages on the federal level. Prop 8 is a mixed blessing. They allowed gay marriage in California, but they had a chance to make sweeping changes across the U.S. to all LGBT members that need it. We still have to fight on a state-by-state basis to make gay marriage legal.

You said — somewhat jokingly — that the best way to get rid of prejudice is to let older people die off. Is that true?

Education is part of it, but a lot of the big issues that we face are generational. Usually, older generations refuse to change their minds, or don't understand why they should. That way of thinking doesn't disappear until those people disappear.

A lot of athletes fear retirement, but when you retire, you'll still have a career as an author and activist.

It was purely unintentional, but I’ve discovered that I really enjoy writing books and talking about issues we need to address.

For the first half of your football career, you weren’t known for speaking out. Why were you so quiet?

I've always talked this way — about the problems with our government and economic inequities — but with the rise of social media, more people are listening now. That letter I wrote [to Burns Jr.] went viral and brought in a lot of people who might not have otherwise followed me before.

As a punter, your approach to football must be more insular. Does that create tension with the team at large?

Not really. Everyone's there to help the team win. The great thing about the NFL is that it is a business and your job is reliant on it. You help each other out, and if the team doesn’t win, guys are more likely to get fired. It's a good environment to be in. I've never had somebody [on my team] disrespect me for being "just" a punter.

Can you express yourself through sports like you do as a writer?

Yes, because there are those transcendental performances where you do something that you didn't think was possible. It's really cool when that happens; it's such a feeling of awe. It's really like art.

What gave you the confidence to be so irreverent and outrageous in your writing?

That's pretty much how I've always been. Even as a kid, I mean, the swearing wasn't there, but the irreverence definitely was. Growing up, a lot of sarcasm was used in my house. My parents encouraged intelligent discussion and not taking yourself too seriously.

Chilean author Roberto Bolaño said that there's no such thing as writer's block, just the "fear of being no good." Do you agree?

I do. When people ask me what's my favourite piece in Sparkleponies, I say, "All of them." If I didn’t think they were good, I wouldn't have put them in the book. If you're going to do something, do it to the very best of your ability. For writing, you have to ask yourself, "Am I really passionate about the subject?" If the answer’s "no," then that’s probably why you have writer's block.

A central theme in your writing is supporting the underdog. Where did that come from?

I think that’s a product of what I read, which is a lot of science fiction and fantasy. In those genres, there's this utopian fantasy where the good guys can win; they can defeat injustice. In our world, a lot of people think it's okay to oppress and discriminate, and that’s not the world I want to live in. Everyone should have the chance to be great and it’s up to you if you want to achieve that greatness.

You espouse a very American understanding of personal freedom. Can you see yourself living and thriving in another country?

I could, especially with the way the American government is currently going. I think the underlying point that I'd like people to take away from my book is the idea of rational empathy. Societies that don't practice empathy collapse.

If it doesn't work out in the States, you’re always welcome in Canada.

Thank you, I appreciate that. It's good to see that having gay marriage up there hasn’t resulted in a zombie-strewn apocalyptic wasteland.

Related >> Talking To: Franka Potente | Noah Baumbach and Greta Gerwig

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