NFL: Kluwe says lawsuit may end career
MINNEAPOLIS — Former Minnesota Vikings punter Chris Kluwe, whose lawyer is expected to file a lawsuit Wednesday against the team, said Monday he anticipates a “protracted legal battle” that almost certainly will end his NFL career.
In January, Kluwe accused the Vikings in a first-person article on Deadspin.com of releasing him in May 2013 because of his outspoken views on same-sex marriage, and he charged that special-teams coordinator Mike Priefer made homophobic comments during the 2012 season.
The Vikings launched a six-month investigation, and the findings were announced Friday. It was concluded there was no evidence of Kluwe being released for anything other than football reasons, and Priefer was suspended for three games for making one inappropriate comment.
Kluwe and his lawyer, Clayton Halunen, confirmed a lawsuit would be filed this week against the Vikings and Priefer in Hennepin County court. Halunen wrote Monday in a text message that it will be filed Wednesday.
“Clayton said that normally, if this goes quickly, it will be about a year before we get to trial,” Kluwe said Monday. “Then I’m sure, whatever ends up happening, there’s going to be an appeal. I’m not a lawyer, but maybe it will take two, three years, four years. The Vikings have chosen to make this a long-term project.”
Kluwe, 32, has not heard from any NFL teams since the Deadspin article came out, although he has spoken of staying in shape in hopes of returning to the league. He now expects his legal battle will put an end to any chance of that happening.
“I’m pretty sure that will end my career,” said Kluwe, who averaged 44.4 yards per punt for the Vikings in eight season from 2005-12. “I doubt there will be many teams that want me on their roster with a lawsuit against another team at the same time. But this is something that I think is important.”
Kluwe said the suit will be for lost past and future earnings, emotional distress and defamation of character. Kluwe said the suit will seek “in excess of $10 million,” but any money he might be awarded would be donated to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender causes.
Kluwe and Halunen are upset that the Vikings chose not to release a 150-page report put together by independent investigators Eric Magnuson and Chris Madel of the law firm Robins, Kaplan, Miller & Ciresi. The investigators interviewed 31 witnesses.
After receiving the report, the Vikings brought in the firm of Littler Mendelson to go over it, and that resulted in a 29-page summary written by Donald Prophete, a lawyer specializing in employment.
“The Vikings are trying their hardest to make sure (the full report) doesn’t come to light,” Kluwe said. “I think the public would like to see it. We’d like to be able for people to have informed discussions of this rather than what the Vikings are presenting, which is a 29-page summary by a third-person party who wasn’t even involved in the investigation.”
Kluwe said Halunen will ask for the report during discovery.
Vikings vice president of legal affairs Kevin Warren did not immediately return a message Monday.
Change.org has placed a petition on its website calling for the full report to be released, and as of early Monday evening there were more than 1,000 signatures. Kluwe said he was contacted by the site over the weekend.
Kluwe said there were issues he discussed in two interviews with investigators he believes should have come to light and were not in Prophete’s summary. While he plans to not divulge some specifics until trial, he did express surprise there was no mention of Kluwe’s claim that Vikings kicker Blair Walsh corroborated Priefer having made homophobic remarks through text messages sent by Walsh to Kluwe.
Halunen revealed to the Pioneer Press in January the existence of such messages. Prophete’s summary said the only corroboration of Priefer having made a homophobic remark was long snapper Cullen Loeffler confirming that Priefer said, “We should round up all the gays, send them to an island and nuke it until it glows.”
“There was a culture of Mike Priefer consistently making homophobic comments in my presence, and they didn’t touch on that at all (in Prophete’s summary),” Kluwe said. “(Priefer) said, ‘You’ll burn in hell like the rest of the gays’ and, ‘I find it inconceivable that two men could kiss. That’s just disgusting.’
“I think some people are going to have to make some tough decisions (in court) on what story they’re going to tell when it comes to taking the stand and being under oath and facing the penalty of perjury for lying.”
Priefer initially issued a statement in January in which he “vehemently” denied making any homophobic comments. He denied it in the first of three interviews with investigators before admitting in the second interview he made one.
Kluwe expressed surprise that Priefer, whose suspension can be reduced to two games if he completes sensitivity training, wasn’t fired for not telling the truth.
“You would think that most employers would do that,” he said.
Although the Vikings announced it was determined Kluwe was released for football-only reasons, Kluwe is hopeful there will be enough evidence for the court to rule otherwise.
With the realization his NFL career likely is over, Kluwe said he will focus on writing science-fiction novels. He is seeking a publisher for his first book, “Genesis Prime,” which deals with a government controlling information to the public more than 1,000 years in the future.
The Pioneer Press is a media partner with Forum News Service.