MINNEAPOLIS — The Minnesota Vikings announced on Friday they will retain two local attorneys to conduct an independent review of the allegations former punter Chris Kluwe made against the team on Thursday.
In a piece Kluwe wrote for Deadspin, he accused special teams coordinator Mike Priefer of making homophobic remarks at several points during the 2012 season, and said that general manager Rick Spielman and former coach Leslie Frazier both asked him to keep quiet about his views on social issues, most notably his support for same-sex marriage.
Priefer responded with a strongly-worded statement, saying, “I vehemently deny today’s allegations made by Chris Kluwe,” and the Vikings reiterated in a statement that Kluwe was released after the 2012 season strictly because of his football performance, not because of his views.
Now, the Vikings will turn to former Minnesota Supreme Court Chief Justice Eric Magnuson and former U.S. Department of Justice trial attorney Chris Madel to review the case.
“It is extremely important for the Vikings organization to react immediately and comprehensively with an independent review of these allegations,” Vikings president Mark Wilf said in a statement.
In an interview with ESPN on Friday, Kluwe said he would be “more than happy to cooperate” with the Vikings’ investigation, and added again there were other players who heard Priefer’s comments during the 2012 season. In the Deadspin piece, Kluwe alleged that Priefer said during a specialists’ meeting, “We should round up all the gays, send them to an island and nuke it until it glows.”
The punter has declined to name the other players whom he says heard Priefer’s remarks, because of his belief that he was run out of the NFL for his views and those players could also be risking their careers by supporting him. But if he has to involve them, Kluwe said, he will.
“The thing is, I made serious statements,” Kluwe said. “If it comes down to it, I have to provide the evidence.”
Kluwe said he has no audio recordings of Priefer’s comments, and that his evidence consists of the recollections he wrote down at the time and other players’ testimony.
Kluwe wrote on Thursday that team owner Zygi Wilf encouraged him before the Vikings’ 2012 season opener to keep speaking out in support of same-sex marriage, and added that Wilf’s wife did the same before a game last November. However, when asked by ESPN why he didn’t take his concerns about Priefer’s comments to the team sooner, Kluwe said he didn’t believe he could talk to Frazier, and added if he’d gone to the NFL or NFLPA with the matter, “that’s something that ends careers,” referencing what happened to Miami Dolphins guard Jonathan Martin when he spoke out about allegations of bullying in the Dolphins’ locker room this season.
Kluwe said he was not surprised to see other players, including kicker Blair Walsh, come to Priefer’s defense on Thursday.
“The main thing to look at is from the players’ perspective,” Kluwe said. “If what I’m saying is true — that I was run out of the league for speaking out — and if they take my side, they would risk falling under that same umbrella. The NFL is not an easy league to get into; I would be surprised if any came to my side, although it would be very gratifying.”
The punter, who was cut by the Vikings after they drafted Jeff Locke last April, said he expects the review will move quickly.
“They want to have a new coaching staff in place for the new year, and they also want to get to the bottom of it and determine whether they would keep Coach Priefer, I would assume,” Kluwe said. “He is a very good special teams coach, don’t get me wrong; his schemes are very good. That’s not the question. But it’s entirely possible to be a good special teams coach and say reprehensible things.
“If they think I’m making this up, they’ll want to clear his name as soon as possible. We’ll see what happens.”
- Previously covered Vikings for St. Paul Pioneer Press
- Also covered Minnesota Twins, Minnesota Wild and Washington Nationals
- Twin Cities native and University of Minnesota graduate