Chris Kluwe, 32, the former Minnesota Vikings punter who was cut before the 2013 season, is desperate to prove that his release was a result of his support for gay marriage rather than his mediocre performance on the field as well as his inflated salary. Kluwe and his attorney, Clayton Halunen, claimed on Tuesday–when the sports media had descended on Minneapolis for baseball’s All-Star Game–that they would file suit against the Vikings for non-release of investigative documents dealing with alleged anti-gay sentiments expressed by special teams coach Mike Priefer during the 2012 season.
Halunen said the report “is the first thing I would get [in] the course of discovery. This will be made public. It’s just going to be delayed for a short time. And if I get it, I will make it public.” Kluwe echoed, “The Vikings said for seven months they were going to make this public, which I think is important. Sweeping it under the rug and keeping the report private isn’t right.”
There’s only one problem: former U.S. Department of Justice attorney Chris Madel, who was one of the lead investigators, had his office release a statement asserting that his firm met with Halunen on Monday and “at no time” told him “that the Vikings ‘would not provide a copy of the report to either Kluwe or the public’ as Halunen’s news release of this morning states.”
When Priefer was not fired after Kluwe’s initial assertions made in a January Deadspin.com article, Halunen barked, “It’s unbelievable to us. 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 and Halunen had said that their lawsuit would accuse the Vikings of discrimination based on religion, human rights, defamation, and “tortuous interference for contractual relations.” That seems incongruous with the facts; even Kluwe admits that Vikings owner Zygi Wilf called a gay wedding he had attended “beautiful” and encouraged Kluwe in his views.
Halunen admitted Kluwe had been looking for a settlement out of court which would allegedly go toward LGBT causes, adding, “He’s never been in it for the money.”
Kluwe spent eight seasons punting for the Vikings, setting more than a dozen team punting records, but after the team drafted Jeff Locke, Kluwe was released. Locke’s salary was far less than Kluwe would have been paid. Kluwe had a miserable season in 2012, ranking 24th in the NFL with a 45-yard punting average while kicking in a domed stadium. He also underwent knee surgery after the season. Kluwe tried to get a job with the Oakland Raiders in 2013, but was cut during training camp.
Kluwe first started his public battle with the Vikings through his Deadspin.com article in which he called special teams coach Mike Priefer a “bigot” and asserted that he was released by head coach Leslie Frazier and general manager Rick Spielman because of his support for same-sex marriage.
Kluwe alleged that Priefer ripped gays in a special teams meeting in 2012: “As we sat down in our chairs Mike Priefer, in one of the meanest voices I can ever recall hearing, said: ‘We should round up all the gays, send them to an island, and then nuke it until it glows.’ “
Kluwe wrote in the article, “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. 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, and I hope he never gets another opportunity to pass his example along to anyone else.”
Kluwe argues, “Writing the Deadspin piece pretty much ensured I will never play in the NFL again.”
Madel and former Minnesota Supreme Court Chief Justice Eric Magnuson were hired by the team to investigate Kluwe’s allegations that Priefer and others in the team organization fired off homophobic slurs and taunts to shut Kluwe up.
Priefer has denied the charges and still holds his position with the team.
The Vikings, anticipating Kluwe’s news conference on Monday, released a statement on their website, stating that the team sent the “investigative materials” to a law firm that specializes in employment matters. The team also stated that the law firm would offer “findings and recommendations” this week.
The team’s statement added, “The Vikings have never made or broken promises as Kluwe and his attorney Clayton Halunen have claimed. As we have consistently communicated throughout this process, the Vikings will have further comment when the investigation is entirely complete and the team has made determinations on next steps.”
The Vikings only received the report earlier this month. Madel’s office said Monday:
Chris Madel, Eric Magnuson, and Jennifer Robbins of Robins, Kaplan, Miller & Ciresi L.L.P. met with Chris Kluwe’s attorney, Clayton Halunen, July 14 at 3:30 p.m. to discuss the status of the independent investigation and to arrange a meeting between Halunen and Vikings representatives for Thursday, July 17 to continue that discussion. At no time during the July 14 meeting did Madel, Magnuson, or Robbins tell Halunen that the Vikings “would not provide a copy of the report to either Kluwe or the public” as Halunen’s news release of this morning states. At the meeting, Halunen agreed to meet with Vikings representatives on Thursday, and that meeting is still scheduled. It is anticipated that issues relating to the investigation will be discussed at that meeting.
Kluwe said that upon release of the report he would shelve the lawsuit. The Vikings said they would meet with Halunen on Thursday.