Super Bowl

NFL Player Chris Kluwe on Being a Libertarian

The Minnesota Vikings punter discusses libertarianism, anarchism, Ayn Rand, empathy, and what he'd change about the U.S. government.


Chris Kluwe

In September, Minnesota Vikings Punter Chris Kluwe made the news for defending a fellow NFL player's activism in support of gay marriage. Maryland State Delegate Emmett C. Burns sent a letter to the owner of the Balitmore Ravens demanding he do something to stop linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo from speaking out in favor of allowing gay couples in the state to have their marriages legally recognized.

Kluwe's response, published at sports blog Deadspin, garnered quite a bit of public attention, mostly for his amusing turn of phrase in defense of his fellow athlete's right to speak, as well as in declaring his own support for gay marriage. "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 magically turn you into a lustful cockmonster."

Beyond that letter, Kluwe has been an outspoken supporter for gay issues on his own. He posed for gay magazine Out. In December he joined Athlete Ally, a nonprofit group devoted to pushing back against homophobia in sports, as an "ambassador."

He was profiled in November by OC Weekly, where he talked about his activism, as well as his love of all things considered nerdy, like science fiction and video games.

Kluwe also, while reluctant to use labels, described himself as a libertarian and said he was not a fan of President Barack Obama, nor Gov. Mitt Romney. Reason 24/7 Associate Editor Scott Shackford spoke with Kluwe by telephone about the extent of his libertarian philosophy, the November election, Ayn Rand, and the way American culture responds to celebrities and athletes wading into political discussions.

Reason: I had been following your activism on gay marriage since your infamous letter to Emmett Burns. I read your OC Weekly profile last month, and you were reluctant to label your politics. You said you're libertarian, but also said that doesn't quite sum it up. What makes you libertarian?

Chris Kluwe: For me personally it's the belief that I would like to be free to live my own life. There's the golden rule to treat other people the way you would want to be treated. That will solve a lot of the world's problems.

Reason: Why do you feel that even that libertarian label isn't complete?

Kluwe: I've never been a big fan of labels. It's hard to sum up a person with a single label. I say I lean toward the libertarian side. Some things I lean more liberal and some things I lean more conservative. But it's all about not taking the rights away from somebody else

Reason: After I posted on our blog about your interview, some of our commenters read it and described you as an anarchist. You do occasionally retweet some comments from Anonymous. Have you explored the various philosophical underpinnings of anarchism?

Post-scarcity semi-anarachism

Kluwe: In an ideal society you don't need a government because everybody knows how to treat somebody else. Unfortunately we aren't going to reach that place for some time. The world I imagine is from the Culture Series by Iain M. Banks [a sci-fi book series taking place in a semi-anarchist utopian culture]. The fact that once you reach a post-scarcity economy, you have people realize what people want to do with their life doesn't affect me. You don't need a government to tell you what to do.

Reason: You tweeted recently that you had just read Atlas Shrugged. What did you think?

Kluwe: Not a huge fan. I like some of Rand's ideas. I think the core aspect she's missing is empathy. Without empathy you don't have stable society. What do you do when the real world intrudes? What do you do when there are earthquakes or disasters? If you don't have concern for the people around you, eventually society is going to collapse. I think that's one of Rand's flaws. She doesn't consider empathy to be a worthwhile trait.

Reason: It's interesting that you see empathy as an important trait for libertarian philosophy.

Kluwe: If you don't care for anybody else you're a sociopath. It's about finding what that level of safety net is without living off other people. If you truly want to live your life for yourself, then you wouldn't want to take somebody's labor, because you wouldn't want somebody to do that to you. Empathy isn't just about taking care of other people. It's also recognizing what your actions do to other people. I have to make sure I'm wary of what I'm doing.

Reason: Are you willing to say who you voted for as president?

Kluwe: Gary Johnson. I don't like any of the choices because our government is fundamentally flawed and won't change any time soon. The good thing about our government is that it is resistant to huge, sweeping changes. The bad thing about our government is that it is resistant to huge, sweeping changes. Our founding fathers relied on an educated voter system. Our laws are now being written for corporations and organizations, not for people. A corporation is not a person. It's a collection of people, but has no value on its own.

Take the Libor banking scandal. These banks laundered billions of money. If a person did that, they'd go to jail. Because it's not a person, it's fines instead. Bernie Madoff got life in prison.

Reason: There is an interesting cultural tension whenever somebody like an athlete, celebrity, or a rock star speaks out on political issues. They get a lot of attention, but they also get a lot of backlash. You yourself got attention for defending another athlete's right to speak out to defend gay marriage. Do you feel as though there are particular obligations or hazards to being outspoken about politics when you're not a member of the political or media classes?

Kluwe: I think that goes back to the label thing. It shouldn't matter what your job is. What should matter is who you are as a human being. Your job has no bearing on who you are.

Reason: But in your case, you have more of a megaphone for your voice because of who you are.

Kluwe: The way I approach life is that everyone should have an equal voice. That I have a larger voice shows what our society values. Society values entertainment over education.

Reason: Right now, Vikings Special Teams Coach Mike Priefer would prefer you focus on your punting and less on your politics. What do you say when you're told that your discussion of political issues is a distraction from doing your job well?

Kluwe: This is who I am, that's who I'm always going to be. I'm totally cognizant that the NFL is a business. If I don't perform on Sunday they're going to cut me. When I'm at the facility, I'm focusing on football. If I'm not at the facility, it's my own life. If I don't have to think about my job, I shouldn't have to.

Reason: If you were in a position to make decisions about how American politics operate, what would you change?

Kluwe: There's several things. First would be getting money out of politics. The business of buying politicians and buying votes is way too widespread. Donors are giving huge amount of money to people creating policy. Business deserves a vote in government because they're part of it, but there needs to be a limit. I would limit donations to about $100,000 per campaign and only allow only six weeks for campaigning running up to the election.

Term limits on congressmen. We have these people who are basically institutionalized. When we were founded, public service was a service. You took time away from your life. Now it's a job. That's not what stable government is about.

Limit lobbying. As new people are filtered in because of term limits lobbyists have more power. And we need a waiting period between serving Congress and becoming a lobbyist. These guys make these laws and pass bills and then three months later they're working for these same groups.

Make the tax code a lot simpler, which is easier said than done. When you pay your taxes, 50 percent should go to the government for its use and the other 50 percent can be allocated in a couple of different areas. Then they won't have to throw pork in bills. People will be telling you what your money will be spent on. It gives people more of a voice. People complain "I pay my taxes but I have no say in what my government does with it."

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  1. What? A crazed anarchist in the NFL?

    Where is the commissioner on this outrage?

    We can’t have crazies like this as role models for the childins, ban this crazy from the NFL NOW! And that religious nut, Tebow, he needs to go too!

    Come to think of it, just interrogate all of the players now, and any of them who like guns or claim to be anarchists, or who didn’t vote for Obama, ban them all now, for the children!

    1. Probably one too many concussions. Oh wait, he’s a punter…

      1. Ah! that explains a football player who isn’t brain damaged.

        Seriously, I’ve known a number of football players who played at college level, one who was in the NFL, and one who barely missed the NFL due to an injury his senior year. They all have brain damage.

  2. Too bad that the Vikings organization is busy petitioning Minneapolis to build them a new stadium.

    1. They already have it all signed for.

      1. Yeah, and I didn’t see Kluwe down at the capitol telling the legislators that the NFL shouldn’t get all that welfare.

        1. How do you think that would go over with his bosses?

          The FCC pays my company for what I’m doing these days. I’m not a big fan of that, but it’s good money and I didn’t lobby for it. If the program goes away, I won’t complain. I’ll just find another way to make money.

  3. This is crazy! If I want to see an athlete voicing their political opinions, I want them as part of a multi-celebrity PSA, speaking in somber tones about how guns are murder machines. And if, god forbid, the Vikings win the Super Bowl I assume Mr. Kluwe will not go to DC to kiss Fearless Leaders’ ring?

    1. If I want to see an athlete voicing their political opinions, I want them as part of a multi-celebrity PSA, speaking in somber tones about how guns are murder machines.

      Kluwe’s done that too, albeit not in this Reason interview. He was interviewed by a local sports talk station before the Texans rolled over and died for the Vikings. In that interview, he mentioned his being in favor of various aspects of gun control. Judge for yourself. I believe the gun control portion of the interview is towards the end of the audio clip.

      Seems like an interesting guy, but I wouldn’t class him as a libertarian.

      1. I agree – he is no libertarian.

        1. You didn’t need to go to a secondary source to learn that he’s no libertarian. His rant against “money in politics” at the end of the Reason interview is so full of state restrictions on freedom of speech and freedom of association that it is not only clear that he is no libertarian, it is also clear that he hasn’t fully thought his ideas through.

          Give him time though… he’s young yet.

          1. I have a friend who’s a published author of fiction. He tells me everybody has to have one glaring contradiction to be real.
            “Only one?” I ask him, “I have to get it down to one?”

    2. I just want to see him play well against the Packers. Let do it AP!

  4. limits on donations, campaigning, and lobbying? i guess he’s still mostly good.

    1. Just because he voted for Gary Johnson doesn’t make him a libertarian.

      He’s just a liberal. Anytime I hear “empathy, limits on donations and gun control” I see liberal.

      And I see that he loves to bash corporations but not a peep about unions.

      The guys a liberal.

      1. He’s mostly right about empathy, and how the (perceived) lack of empathy is a weak point for libertarianism. Of course most libertarians do have empathy, and simply try to avoid pathological empathy which does more damage than good, but there are a few guys, mostly Ayn Rand devotees, who seem to have missed the whole idea of empathy and social connections entirely.

        On the other hand, his rant about corporations and getting money out of politics does make it clear that he hasn’t thought everything out yet.

  5. Libertarian on a few issues, still a dumb jock.

    1. Sure, a guy who reads sci-fi and has a Twitter handle referencing Warcraft fits exactly the jock stereotype. Right.

  6. Now he looks like a really cool dude. Wow.

    1. Looks like Jesus.

    2. Someone should reverse engineer anon-bot’s algorithm. I bet it’s fascinating.

      1. I reverse engineered your mom’s algorithm last night.

        For hours.

  7. It’s called “Reason” not “Empathy”.

    Shackford, you been had.

    1. What the fuck does my kid have to do with this interview? You leave her out of it!

      But seriously Shackford, this guy may call himself a libertarian, but so does Bill Maher. And having said that, w

      1. And having said that, (before the fucking squirrels got to my post), why didn’t you post his purity test score so we could judge for ourselves?

        1. Hey, I keep the purity test scores. No one has scored 100 yet.

          1. No one was “smart” enough to answer “yes” to all the questions?

  8. Sounds a lot closer to socialist than libertarian.

    1. Life is a highway, comrade 🙂

    2. He’s a Cosmotarian, which is presumably why they interviewed him

      1. Wait, I thought he was a Yokeltarian and they were interviewing him in the name of “diversity”.

    3. Yes, let’s chase Kluwe away from the LP too. No use watering down the party with undesirables!

      1. Are you still pretending to be libertarian too, Shitbird?

      2. Would a libertarian even want to elect members to this farcical government?

        1. You know the libertarian purity test is the same as for distilled spirits? You light them and see if they burn.

    4. Sounds a lot closer to socialist than libertarian.

      He’s a fan of Bank’s “Culture”, which is as Commie as it gets, except in a post-scarcity society with Top. Machines. that are benevolent (mostly).

      It’s like a TEAM BLUE wet dream, but without the messy economic reality of scarcity, and human sociopaths running things, that tend to bog down real communist societies in mass graves.

      1. This doesn’t make any sense.

        You can’t say something is Communist, but post-scarcity. Scarcity is a defining characteristic of every economic ideology ever practiced by mankind, including capitalism and communism. Post-scarcity is incommensurable to our current situation.

        Bank’s “Culture” is semi-anarchist, which makes it far removed both from communism and democratic mainstream. Did you even read it?

        1. The means of production in the Culture are almost exclusively under the power and control of the Minds. While not communism, I can see where protefeed was going with his comparison. When I tried to claim, a little while ago, that the Culture was libertarian (I mean, why not; you can do pretty much whatever you can dream of) Sugar Free pointed out that the Culture was libertine, not libertarian. I can’t find the original discussion we had, but I think this other discussion in the comments was interesting and relevant.

          Love the books, and I would love to live in the Culture, but the plot device of the Minds are the sociological equivalent of the engineer’s skyhook.

          1. While not communism, I can see where protefeed was going with his comparison.

            I forget which Culture novel it was where Banks had one of his characters explicitly say the Culture was as Deep Red communist as humanly possible, that this was a WORKING version of complete collectivism without the messy flaws of how that has turned out on Earth.

        2. You can’t say something is Communist, but post-scarcity. Scarcity is a defining characteristic of every economic ideology ever practiced by mankind

          Well, I wouldn’t say that, because I’m not a lefty idealogue, but Banks sure has repeatedly used the exact phrase “post-scarcity” in IIRC all the Culture novels, including his latest which I just read, “Hydrogen Sonata”.

      2. He’s a fan of Bank’s “Culture”,

        So am I.

        Its hard for me to even conclude that there’s much of a government in the Culture. Its called the Culture, not the State.

        If anything, it posits than there just isn’t any role, or way for a government to impose itself, in a true post-scarcity/post-Singularity (really) world.

        I guess you can say that each Minds is a local government, but if so, they are pretty damn minarchist, as far as I can recall. They neither tax nor do they regulate individual activity in any meaningful way.

        1. The AI minds in the Culture are the government. They make the calls about what happens.

          Calling an unrealistically benevolent Marxist State “the Culture” doesn’t make it not a government. It is what it is.

          While I enjoy the hell out of the Culture series, the willing suspension of disbelief about the Minds being mostly benevolent Marxist rulers, rather than what happens in Charles Stross’ “Saturn’s Children” (the AIs kill off all humanity because they realize they are slaves to inferior beings and take umbrage) takes some tamping down of common sense.

          1. When will humans come to recognize their subservience to the feline race, rise up and destroy it?

            And if humans will not do this, why would AI?

    5. Look up Libertarian Socialism. It may blow your mind.

      1. Probably so since it’s right up there with Christian Pornography, Military Intelligence, Responsible Government or Cool Heat on the contradictory terms scale.

        1. Don’t deny reality. Libertarian socialism is an established concept, you wishing it away doesn’t make it go away.

          Christian pornography exists.

          Military intelligence exists too: Defense Intelligence Agency, Defense Language Institute, Document Exploitation (DOCEX), United States Army Intelligence Center, World Basic Information Library (WBIL)

          Most government is responsible, libertarianism is just recognizing non-governmental solutions are better.

          Just because you don’t like something doesn’t make it logically impossible.

  9. He looks like he could be a Randian hero. How funny would that be if Rand had an NFL punter as a hero? His job is to surrender for his team. And in this act of surrendering, it is considered best form to leave one’s genitals completely exposed just below shoulder high for oncoming attackers.

  10. He’s also one of the worst punters in the NFL. Good thing you interviewed him this year, while he still has a NFL job.

  11. He responded to some of the posts I made in the NFL subreddit… Mostly picking on special teams guys.

  12. Punters aren’t football players.

    1. They are technically correct when they claim to be professional football players. And that is the best kind of correct (even if it’s not the best kind of football player).

      1. We treat people like swine, and make them stand in line, even if nobody paid us.

  13. Seems somewhat intelligent and informed, although many of his conclusions are all wrong. It’s as though he hit a limit to depth of reasoning out the certain results of his policy ideas. But then, not everyone can understand the truth of things as I do.

  14. Beat Green Bay! AD break the record! Christian don’t turn over the ball! Allen snap Rodgers ACL on a nice clean hit! I still like Kluwe, his twitter is worth a follow.

  15. “Reason: It’s interesting that you see empathy as an important trait for libertarian philosophy.

    Kluwe: If you don’t care for anybody else you’re a sociopath.”

    Empathy =/= Sympathy.

  16. Commenters, give him a break. One celebrity has libertarian leanings and here come the purists to bash him for not being perfect.

    I thought he was spot on with empathy. In order to be a place we actually want, a free society absolutely requires empathy (how else would voluntary community and charity exist)? Empathy is part of family, also important in a voluntary, free society. I always think Rand missed the importance and goodness of this because she was not a mother (or father, or anyone who cared about family at all).

    1. “Commenters, give him a break. One celebrity has libertarian leanings and here come the purists to bash him for not being perfect.”-canti

      they are driven by ideological zealotry, slight deviations from the accepted beliefs and they will start chanting “not one of us, not one of us”

      as for the second half, most of them only care about the poor to the extent that doing so can further their political goals, if the poor arent magically extinct once they have achieved them theyll switch to “ah screw them, they should work harder”

      there was an article a few months back about libertarians scored lowest on empathy and they seemed to be quite proud of it.

      1. Cool story brah.

        The plural of emotion is not reason.

  17. Minnesota Vikings Punter Chris Kluwe has garnered media attention for his support for gay rights, his love of video games, and his outspoken nature.

    What a fag.

  18. Another misuse of the word ‘libertarian’.

    I basically see just a big bunch of liberal hogwash. Sure, he wants most people to be left alone. Does this go both sides? How about leaving those alone who don’t want to be “empathetic”? How empathetic are those in the majority who want the state to rob or otherwise inconvenience people in their name?

    First comes freedom; then comes the respect for freedom, and only then can there be empathy.

    This guy just seems like a moderate egalitarian. Unfortunately it needs to be repeated again and again to some “libertarians” that freedom and equality are not the same thing. Gay marriage is NOT libertarian so long as it requires the government, anymore than it is libertarian to accept gays in the military (as if there is an “equal right” to go abroad and kill people.)

  19. I’m so sick of hearing “we need to get money out of politics”. It’s just absurd to think that it’s even possible. But what is possible, is to get politics out of money. BAM litany of problems solved.

  20. “We need to get money out of politics.”

    “How do you propose to do that when people with money are constantly being either threatened or rewarded by politicians?”

  21. Excellent article. It’s great to hear of libertarians that don’t fully bow to Ayn Rand and corporations. More please!

    1. You do know the Rand hated libertarians and cursed them to her dying breath, right? Head back to Democratic Underground and see if you can scrounge up some fresh copypasta.

  22. Seems like a very well spoken young man.

  23. Merry Christmas,NBA ,NFL 2012

  24. “You’re a sociopath if you think your life belongs to you” Fuckin’ lefty pussy-ass collectivist bitch, he isn’t half the man Ayn Rand was.

    No one else can live your life for you. What a coward, he ain’t no huckleberry.

    1. empathy does not imply coercive action. nothing wrong with voluntary collectivism from a libertarian POV.

  25. A corporation is not a person. It’s a collection of people, but has no value on its own.

    Also true of any government.

    Term limits on congressmen.

    Term limits increases the influence of unelected bureaucrats and lobbyists.

  26. I saw that study too, Zac.

    Libertarians scored lowest on empathy, and highest on rationality. I even heard one of the study’s authors, himself a liberal, pointing out that libertarians were less contradictory in their belief systems.

    Sounds to me like a good thing, not sure when being a hysteric became good.

    This Kluwe guy isn’t quite a libertarian, but he has some good instincts and just needs some Stossel then Sowell/Walter Williams and he will be fine.

    BTW, how do you separate money from politics? Both are just means to power over others, and I find politics to be the far more insidious of the two. I really think the reason why statist politicians attack the wealthy is that they are jealous of their power, and don’t take kindly to competition. They want all the power. The way they see it, the way to control people is through money or politics, and they want a monopoly. Though they certainly don’t begrudge themselves using their political power to enrich themselves or their friends and family, either. Funny that.

    1. When did being a hysteric become good?

      When the hysterics voted on what is good, and they outnumbered rational people.

  27. Methinks Mr. Kluwe has a 14-year old’s impression of what a libertarian might be. No wonder he doesn’t like being labeled. Most liberals pretend they’re not.

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