Vikings Suspend Coach for Anti-Gay Comment; Ex-Punter to Sue

The Minnesota Vikings suspended special teams coach Mike Priefer for three games on Friday for making an anti-gay comment in 2012. The disciplinary action comes as a result of accusations made by disgruntled cut punter Chris Kluwe against his former coach.

In an article at Deadspin, the punter paraphrased Priefer as asserting that "the only truth was Jesus Christ and the Bible," relayed that the coach expressed disgust at two men kissing, and alleged that he expressed a desire to drop a nuclear bomb on homosexuals. "If there's one thing I hope to achieve from sharing this story," Kluwe wrote at Deadspin in January, "it's to make sure that Mike Priefer never holds a coaching position again in the NFL, and ideally never coaches at any level."

The Vikings employed a former chief justice of the Minnesota Supreme Court and a former U.S. Justice Department official to investigate the charges issued by Kluwe. The investigators found no evidence that the Vikings--owned by a supporter of gay marriage--discouraged Kluwe's gay-rights activism or released him for political reasons. They did find evidence that Priefer made an anti-gay comment attributed to him by Kluwe.

The report (PDF) notes:

The objective evidence, in addition to the subjective evaluation of coaches, special teams staff members and external evaluators, simply contradict Kluwe’s view of his performance in 2012. No interviewed witness agreed that Kluwe had a good year in 2012.... There is also the issue of Kluwe’s age (31) and salary ($1.3 million) in 2012 and slated salary of $1.4 million in 2013. Several coaching staff members noted that Kluwe’s age, previous knee injury and leg strength showed a punter in decline. Also, the Vikings were able to sign drafted punter (Jeff) Locke for $405,000, less than one third of Kluwe’s scheduled 2013 salary.

Despite the report's findings contrary to Kluwe's contention that the Vikings blackballed him because of his outspoken support for gay rights, the punter plans to sue "as soon as possible," according to Chris Tomasson of the St. Paul Pioneer Press. Kluwe further explained to Tomasson, "I assume at the start of the business day Monday we'll be in court."

The team's website featured an apology by Priefer on Friday night. "I owe an apology to many people--the Wilf family, the Minnesota Vikings organization and fans, my family, the LGBT community, Chris Kluwe and anyone else that I offended with my insensitive remark," Priefer said in a statement. "I regret what has occurred and what I said. I am extremely sorry but I will learn from this situation and will work on educating others to create more tolerance and respect."

Atop suspending Priefer without pay, the Vikings have ordered the coach to undergo workplace sensitivity training as a precondition of returning. Should he complete the program to the team's satisfaction, Priefer may cut his suspension from three to two games. "In addition," the team announced, "as a continued effort to support human rights and anti-hate causes, the Vikings will make a total donation of $100,000 to LGBT rights charitable and educational organizations."


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