Former Minnesota Vikings punter Chris Kluwe alleged on Thursday that he was sacked by the National Football League (NFL) team last May because of his public support for same-sex marriage.
In a scathing article which he wrote for the website Deadspin, Kluwe said he had been repeatedly urged by former Vikings coach Leslie Frazier and general manager Rick Spielman to "stop speaking out on this stuff."
Kluwe also said that Vikings special teams coach Mike Priefer had made several anti-gay comments in his presence, while Vikings owner Zygi Wilf had expressed support for the punter's stance on gay rights.
"Quite a few people asked me if I thought (my firing) was because of my recent activism for same-sex marriage rights, and I was very careful in how I answered the question," Kluwe wrote.
"My answer, verbatim, was always, 'I honestly don't know, because I'm not in those meetings with the coaches and administrative people.' However, I'm pretty confident it was.
"It's my belief, based on everything that happened over the course of 2012, that I was fired by Mike Priefer, a bigot who didn't agree with the cause I was working for, and two cowards, Leslie Frazier and Rick Spielman."
Kluwe, who was released by the Vikings on last May despite having established several punt records for the team, was especially scathing of Priefer.
"If there's one thing I hope to achieve from sharing this story, it's to make sure that Mike Priefer never holds a coaching position again in the NFL, and ideally never coaches at any level," Kluwe, 32, wrote.
"It's inexcusable that someone would use his status as a teacher and a role model to proselytize on behalf of his own doctrine of intolerance..."
The Vikings said in a statement later on Thursday that they were taking the allegations very seriously and would review the matter.
"The team has long respected our players' and associates' individual rights, and, as Chris specifically stated, Vikings ownership supports and promotes tolerance, including on the subject of marriage equality," the statement read.
"Because he was identified with the Vikings, Chris was asked to be respectful while expressing his opinions. Team ownership and management also repeatedly emphasized to Chris that the Vikings would not impinge on his right to express his views.
"Any notion that Chris was released from our football team due to his stance on marriage equality is entirely inaccurate and inconsistent with team policy. Chris was released strictly based on his football performance."
(Reporting by Mark Lamport-Stokes in Los Angeles; Editing by Frank Pingue)