Uncooperative witness holding up Kluwe-Vikings investigation, attorney says
By Chris Tomasson
St. Paul Pioneer Press
The Chris Kluwe investigation soon could be wrapped up. Or maybe not.
Chris Madel, one of two attorneys heading the probe into allegations the former Vikings punter made in January, said Thursday investigators still want to interview a key person who has been uncooperative.
Kluwe claims the Vikings released him in May 2013 over his outspoken views on same-sex marriage, an allegation first made in a first-person article on the website Deadspin.com. In it, Kluwe also claimed special teams coordinator Mike Priefer made homophobic remarks to Kluwe during the 2012 season, an allegation Priefer has denied.
The Vikings say Kluwe was let go strictly for football reasons.
In late April, Madel said he was hopeful the investigation would be completed in three to four weeks. But difficulties interviewing an unnamed individual could push completion into June, Madel said.
“Our report right now is awaiting one final person to be interviewed that we consider to be material to the investigation, and that person needs to be interviewed before the report can be final,” Madel said. “If that person gave us an interview tomorrow, then we could have the report in less than two weeks.
“That person to date has not been cooperative. There have been delays in the investigation due to some people refusing to be interviewed that were subsequently interviewed.”
Madel would not identify the person.
Clayton Halunen, a lawyer representing Kluwe, said he has been made aware the reason for the delay. It started in early January.
“These things take long,” Halunen said. “At the beginning, I said it wouldn’t surprise me if this takes six months. It’s taken about six months. There were a lot of people to interview, a lot of schedules to coordinate. A lot of thought went into this.
“But I’ve always believed that justice will be served and the truth will come out, and we’re expecting it will be favorable.”
Halunen said Kluwe, initially interviewed Jan. 25 in Minneapolis, was interviewed a second time May 5 via video conference. Kluwe, who lives in Huntington Beach, Calif., said it involved follow-up questions.
“It went well,” Kluwe said. “It think it was just some clarification stuff. While it’s ongoing, they don’t want us talking about it.”
If the investigation doesn’t turn out how Kluwe hopes, he has vowed to file a lawsuit seeking lost wages and punitive damages and has said he would donate any money received to LGBT causes.
Kluwe initially had one year from his May 6, 2013, release to file such a suit, but the Vikings recently entered into a statute of limitations tolling agreement, meaning a suit still could be filed if Kluwe doesn’t like the outcome.
“I think the investigators are invested in finding the truth,” Kluwe said. “We’re hopeful that this will turn out the right way and no lawsuits are filed and we can just go on with our lives.”
Kluwe, 32, doesn’t believe his on-the-field performance warranted being released. The Vikings drafted his eventual replacement, Jeff Locke, in the fifth round April 28, 2013, and Kluwe was let go eight days later.
Halunen told the Pioneer Press in January that Kluwe met with director of player development Les Pico shortly after Locke was drafted to complain about Priefer, and left with an understanding the matter would be looked into further.
Kluwe last month acknowledged meeting with Pico when he realized his job might be in jeopardy and said he doesn’t know what might have immediately happened in the organization after he complained about Priefer.
In the Deadspin article, Kluwe wrote that he met with Vikings general manager Rick Spielman on May 6, 2013, and was told of his release. During that meeting, Kluwe said Thursday, he didn’t mention anything about Priefer or about having met with Pico.
“At that point, it was pretty evident that I was going to be gone anyway, so there was not that much of a point in saying anything,” said Kluwe, who was due to make $1.4 million in 2013. “What’s the team going to do? Say, ‘Yeah, this fifth-round draft pick (Locke), we’ll just send it back and pick someone else?’ They had pretty much made their decision.”
Kluwe has said he wants to resume his NFL career. However, he said Thursday, he hasn’t heard from any teams since the Deadspin article came out.
The Pioneer Press is a media partner with Forum News Service.