Chris Kluwe not happy Vikings opted to retain special teams coach Mike Priefer, may sue team
On Thursday, the Minnesota Vikings formally introduced the coaching staff that will assist new head coach Mike Zimmer in his first year on the job. Most of the coaching filling the various positions have been known for some time, so Thursday’s announcement was merely a formality.
One name that appeared on the list of Zimmer’s assistant coaches was Mike Priefer, who will remain the team’s special teams coach.
Priefer was the subject of a scathing commentary written by former Vikings punter Chris Kluwe and published on Deadspin in early January.
In the piece, Kluwe contends he lost his job with the Vikings due to his outspoken views as an advocate on a variety of LGBT issues, specifically same sex marriage. Kluwe claims his stance on those issues flew in the face of Priefer’s anti-gay agenda. Kluwe further claimed that Priefer made homophobic slurs and remarks on frequent occasions.
Kluwe writes: “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, both of whom knew I was a good punter and would remain a good punter for the foreseeable future, as my numbers over my eight-year career had shown, but who lacked the fortitude to disagree with Mike Priefer on a touchy subject matter.”
Priefer issued a statement denying Kluwe’s accusations, which read in part: “I want to be clear that I do not tolerate discrimination of any type and am respectful of all individuals. I personally have gay family members who I love and support just as I do any family member.
“The primary reason I entered coaching was to affect people in a positive way. As a coach, I have always created an accepting environment for my players, including Chris, and have looked to support them both on and off the field.
“The comments today have not only attacked my character and insulted my professionalism, but they have also impacted my family. While my career focus is to be a great professional football coach, my number one priority has always been to be a protective husband and father to my wife and children.”
Kluwe’s piece on Deadspin not surprisingly began attracting a lot of attention, none of it good for the Vikings, who in the wake of the ensuing controversy announced it would launch an internal investigation headed by former Minnesota chief justice Eric Magnuson and former U.S. department of justice attorney Chris Madel. The investigation into the matter reportedly is scheduled to be completed next month.
Kluwe wrote in the Deadspin piece that one of the goals for speaking out was the hope that Priefer would lose his job with the Vikings and never coach again.
“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 wrote.
With the news on Thursday that Priefer will remain on the Vikings coaching staff, Kluwe’s attorney, Clayton Halunen, issued a statement, calling the investigation a “big charade.”
“It appears from our point of view that this whole investigation may have been one big charade,” Halunen said, according to a Star Tribune report. “Because it appears that the Vikings are interested in doing business as usual. They are just going to protect Priefer as if nothing happened and simply pretend that this outrageous conduct didn’t occur, when the evidence is quite the contrary.”
Halunen also expressed his dismay in an interview with the Pioneer Press, saying, “My one word description is ‘outrageous,’ ” Halunen said. “It’s almost unimaginable that there’s a pending investigation regarding whether or not this guy engaged in homophobic, hate-filled behavior and without even a conclusion in the findings they’ve retained this person as a coach, as a leader.”
It’s unbelievable to us,” Halunen continued, according to the Pioneer Press report. “It shows that the Vikings are not sincere about this supposed investigation, that it’s a mere charade, and at the end of the day they’re going to cover up this.”
Kluwe’s attorney went on to say that any legal action would be taken against both Priefer and the Vikings organziation.
“It’s just a matter of when we begin litigation,” he said. “That’s the only question in my mind now. Do we immediately file suit or do we wait and see if we get the confirmation we get from their supposed investigation?”
In other words, if his attorney’s statements are an accurate representation about how his client feels about everything, Chris Kluwe is pissed. Really, really pissed. Not only that, Chris Kluwe may be feeling a bit litigious.
No matter how it proceeds from this point forward, it’s clear that this already-ugly situation has the potential to get even uglier. And one thing is for certain: This won’t end well. Not for Priefer, maybe not even for Kluwe. But it definitely will not for the Vikings if litigation becomes an unwanted distraction.
Although a source close to the situation told the Pioneer Press that just because Priefer was announced as a member of Zimmer’s staff on Thursday does not mean he will be on it by the time the 2014 season rolls around. The team could reevaluate Priefer’s place in the organization once the investigation is complete. So there’s that.