Chris Kluwe, a former punter for the Minnesota Vikings, discussed LGBTQ advocacy in the realm of professional sports in the Edmund A. Walsh Building on Wednesday night.

During the event, which was sponsored by the LGBTQ Resource Center and the Georgetown University Lecture Fund, Kluwe emphasized the importance of respecting each individual’s personal liberty and standing up for equality.

“If we want to live in a world where we all have the freedom to pursue what we want to pursue — to live the way we want to live — then we have to make sure that everyone else has that same freedom as well,” Kluwe said.

Kluwe gained recognition for his LGBTQ advocacy and allyship after publicly releasing a letter that he had sent to Maryland State Assemblyman Emmett Burns in 2012. The letter condemned Burns’ attempt to silence the opinions of Baltimore Ravens Linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo, who supports same-sex marriage. Burns had written a letter asking the team to limit Ayanbadejo’s freedom of expression.

Kluwe defended Ayanbadejo’s ideals and his right to express them.

“Empathy is very much a self-centered view of the world in that you understand that if you want to be free to live your own life, then everyone else has to have that same freedom. Because, if they don’t, then the whole system doesn’t work,” Kluwe said.

Kluwe was released from the Vikings in May 2013.

Earlier this year, in an open letter entitled “I Was an NFL Player Until I was Fired by Two Cowards and a Bigot,” Kluwe alleged that he was released from the team because of his LGBTQ activism.

“It didn’t just happen to me; it’s happened to millions of people across the country. There’s still plenty of states where it’s entirely legal to be fired from your job simply because of your sexuality and that’s not something that a stable society should have,” Kluwe said.

An ongoing, independent investigation is exploring Kluwe’s claim about his release.

“It’s really impressive that he basically doesn’t even know if he’s going to have a job ever again but he’s still advocating,” Laura Whitehill (NHS ’16), who attended the event, said.

Many of the 12 students who attended the event posed questions about Michael Sam. Sam, who publicly announced his homosexuality after playing college football for four years, will be the first openly gay active NFL player if he is signed by an NFL team.

Kluwe does not believe that Sam’s sexuality will create tension among his prospective teammates.

“He’ll be fine with the players in the locker room because the majority of the players just don’t care. They’re a younger generation. They’re growing up in a society that says that this isn’t something we should be worrying about,” Kluwe said.

Instead, Kluwe expects that Sam will face more problems dealing with coaches and management, who are more likely to be influenced by stereotypes about homosexuals.

“Stereotypes are so easy for people to fall back on because you don’t have to think about it. … The stereotypes are lazy, and falling into that trap means that you’re excluding so much of what makes someone a human being that you’re doing yourself a disservice because you’ll never get to know who that person is,” Kluwe said.

Kluwe referenced the language used by some coaches and officials who have said that the presence of an openly gay player creates a distraction in the locker room.

“It’s a lot of the same things that were said when Jackie Robinson was preparing to enter Major League Baseball. ‘He’s going to tear the locker room apart. Players just won’t understand,’” Kluwe said. “It’s our job as a society to hold those people accountable … for what they’re actually saying, not just what they’re saying on the surface. Because what they’re really saying is, ‘We don’t want a gay player in our locker room.’”

Olivia Smith (COL ’14) said she attended the event because of Kluwe’s advocacy.

“I feel like [Kluwe] is very unique among football players — at least in my limited knowledge of them — so I think that’s a little disappointing because he’s one of only a few who are willing to speak out,” Smith said.“I think its that it’s exciting that there is someone like him who’s still really connected to the football world but also connected to the world of advocacy.”

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