ALAMEDA, Calif. -- Chris Kluwe, punter, activist and author, may have gone too far this time. He said he shouldn't be making exponentially more money than a janitor.
He said this on Monday, not long after declining an invitation to a White House reception, via a characteristically eccentric RSVP informing the President -- "or whoever reads these things, I'm sure he's probably pretty busy (hello underappreciated email answering person!!')" -- that he couldn't miss the Raiders' minicamp session on June 13. To meet his football obligations, Kluwe also turned down a chance to speak at UCLA's commencement next week.
Under the circumstances, one would expect him to take himself pretty seriously. His collection of essays and short stories is due out later this month. It's titled "Beautifully Unique Sparkleponies," after a G-rated phrase he concocted for the cleansed version of his profanely eloquent letter in defense of same-sex marriage last fall.
One of the essays, Kluwe said after a Raiders' workout on Monday, addresses the failure to place proper value on different forms of labor.
"We have CEOs and athletes and other people making tons of money, and that's not to say we don't work hard, because a lot of us do," he said. "But as a punter, my contribution to society? Not quite as much as a teacher's. Not quite as much as a janitor's. I'm entertainment. And while there is value in entertainment, there is a lot more value in keeping people fed, or keeping our streets clean or making sure that diseases don't run rampant in our cities."
Himself, he doesn't take seriously. His ideas are another matter.
The book revisits his letter to Deadspin, supporting Ravens linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo's freedom of speech as an advocate for same-sex marriage after a Maryland legislator asked the team to hush him. "It's a snapshot into my mind," he said. "… So buyer beware."
The collection includes short stories with a science-fiction bent, one about time travel and another on the Fermi Paradox, and an assessment of Ayn Rand's "Atlas Shrugged," which as a fan of liberty, Kluwe felt compelled to read.
"She drives me crazy," he said, shaking his head and laughing. "I really felt like she bludgeoned me with words, over and over. And one of the topics in my book is that (with) this idea of John Galt, Ayn Rand got very close to a good idea, but she never included empathy, which is why her characters are soulless automotons who would never function in the real world. John Galt is someone who doesn't survive in the real world because he doesn't take into account everybody around him."
He laughed a lot, whether discussing the inevitable collapse of any society that doesn't support what he calls "rational empathy" or demonstrating the wave he plans to use as grand marshal at the Twin Cities LGBT Pride parade.
"It's what? Wrist, wrist, elbow, elbow?" Kluwe said, rotating his arm awkwardly enough to confirm that he made his living with his legs.
He couldn't be sure how long his punting days would continue after the Vikings released him last month. He had been in Minnesota for eight years, but the Vikings drafted a young replacement, generating suspicion that they did not feel comfortable with Kluwe's expressiveness. Kluwe bid farewell with a tweet that referenced "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" -- "So long, Minnesota, and thanks for all the fish!"
Oakland soon picked him up, and the shelves of Raider-generated literate prepared room for "Beautifully Unique Sparkleponies" alongside "They Call Me Assassin."
About a third of the essays, Kluwe said, had already been written in his spare time, before he could imagine a book deal.
"About three or four publishers came to me and said, 'You should write a book,' and I said 'No, I'm focused on football,' he said. "Then another three or four more publishers came to me and said, 'You should write a book,' and I thought to myself: Well, if the people who are in charge of books say you should write a book, that would be like seven or eight NFL teams telling you should play football, you should probably listen to them."
He and a friend are also working on a science-fiction novel, originally begun as a script inspired by "those terrible shark movies you see on the Discovery Channel."
Chances are, if that book ever sees publication, it won't prompt accusations that Kluwe allowed himself to be distracted from his job. His commentary on gay rights has left him susceptible, if not vulnerable, to such charges. When he posted the RSVP to the White House celebration of LGBT month, he tweeted an intro: "Lest anyone EVER question my commitment to a team that employs me, I present exhibit A."
Nothing about his performance in Minnesota suggests he should have to defend himself. But he does anyway.
"The thing is, I am focused on football," he said. "I'm here to help the Raiders win in any way that I can. While I'm at the facility, while I'm on the practice field, 100 percent of my attention is on football.
"Away from the practice field, then I'm probably going to live my life."
The attention he receives probably distresses football's cultural enforcers as much as the content of his message. NFL players are supposed to visit the White House because they won the Super Bowl, not go individually as a follow-up act to trading jibes with Stephen Colbert or chatting up Ellen DeGeneres.
On "The Colbert Report," the punter called himself "a professional surrenderer." He described the position perfectly, with the wordsmith's touch. But his personality? It never quits.