Vikings to look into Kluwe charges
By Chris Tomasson
St. Paul Pioneer Press
The Vikings have retained two notable lawyers to conduct an independent review of allegations made by former punter Chris Kluwe.
The Vikings announced Friday that former Chief Justice of the Minnesota Supreme Court Eric Magnuson and former Department of Justice trial attorney Chris Madel will lead an investigation after Kluwe claimed Thursday that Minnesota special-teams coordinator Mike Priefer made homophobic remarks and that Kluwe was released from the team for being outspoken on social issues.
The website Deadspin published a first-person article by Kluwe in which he called Priefer a “bigot” and general manager Rick Spielman and former coach Leslie Frazier “cowards” because Kluwe claimed they went along with Priefer’s wishes to have him released.
Kluwe told the Pioneer Press he will “completely cooperate” with the investigation even if it means identifying former teammates as witnesses. He also said, in response to Priefer issuing a statement in which he “vehemently” denied the allegations, he would welcome the coach suing him.
“It’s an excellent gauge for a defamation lawsuit if he’s saying that I’m saying lies,” Kluwe said. “If you really feel that strongly about the matter, there is legal recourse available. Everyone has a chance to have their day in court.”
The Vikings said the investigation has begun. It will include interviews with current and former members of the organization.
“It is extremely important for the Vikings organization to react immediately and comprehensively with an independent review of these allegations,” Vikings owner and President Mark Wilf said in a statement.
Kluwe said an investigation is the proper thing for the Vikings to do.
“That’s good,” he said. “I’m glad they’re taking the matter seriously. I really look forward to everything that transpires from it because everything I said was the truth.”
Kluwe said teammates witnessed what Priefer said. He hasn’t wanted to name them but said he would if that is needed during an investigation.
“I would hate having to do that because it could hurt them with teams,” Kluwe said. “But the bottom line in all of this is the truth has to be told. If that’s the case, I hate having to do it. But I made very serious statements, and I have the evidence to back them up.
“If what I’m saying is true and I was run out of the league, put (some teammates) under that same umbrella. They run the exact same risk to be run out of the league. The NFL is harsh. There are no guaranteed contracts. They can cut you at any time. It’s a very risky proposition.”
One of Kluwe’s claims was that Priefer said, “We should round up all the gays, send them to an island, and then nuke it until it glows.”
Priefer released a statement Thursday saying he does “not tolerate discrimination of any type and am respectful of all individuals.”
Priefer is considered a possible candidate as a head coach, including with the Vikings, who fired Frazier on Monday. Kluwe said one of his reasons for releasing the article Thursday was to prevent Priefer from getting another job.
Vikings safety Harrison Smith, who attended many special-teams meetings in 2012 with Priefer and Kluwe, told the Pioneer Press on Friday he never saw Priefer say anything similar to what Kluwe alleged and that the coach always was “respectful.”
“It’s a shame to take a shot at a guy when he can’t defend himself,” Smith said.
Second-year placekicker Blair Walsh released a statement Thursday defending Priefer.
There has been a lot of negative news lately about the Vikings. On Wednesday, linebacker Erin Henderson was arrested for the second time in two months for suspicion of DWI. On Thursday, wide receiver Jerome Simpson pleaded guilty to careless driving and third-degree DWI following a November traffic stop.
Magnuson and Madel are partners in the firm Robins, Kaplan, Miller & Ciresi L.L.P., which is headquartered in Minneapolis and has offices in five other U.S. cities.
“This is a highly sensitive matter that we as an organization will address with integrity,” Kevin Warren, Vikings vice president of legal affairs and chief administrative officer, said in a statement. “Eric and Chris (Madel) have stellar reputations in both the local and national legal community. They have handled numerous cases involving a wide range of issues, and we are confident they will move swiftly and fairly in completing this investigation.”
The Pioneer Press is a media partner with Forum News Service.