Football / Sports

Vikings coach Priefer suspended 3 games after Kluwe investigation

The Vikings have suspended special teams coordinator Mike Priefer three games following their six-month investigation into accusations made by former punter Chris Kluwe that Priefer made anti-gay remarks in team meetings in the 2012 season.

Priefer, who apologized for his comments in a statement, must attend sensitivity training. If he meets that requirement, his suspension could be reduced to two games.

"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 the 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."

The Vikings released Friday night a 29-page summary of the independent investigation, which was led by former U.S. Department of Justice attorney Chris Madel and former Minnesota Supreme Court justice Eric Magnuson.

In a January article on the website Deadspin.com, Kluwe said that Priefer remarked before a special teams meeting: "We should round up all the gays, send them to an island, and then nuke it until it glows."

Priefer at the time issued a statement, which read, "I vehemently deny today's allegations made by Chris Kluwe. I want to be clear that I do not tolerate discrimination of any type and am respectful of all individuals. I personally have gay family members who I love and support just as I do any family member. The comments today have not only attacked my character and insulted my professionalism, but they have also impacted my family."

Kluwe's lawyer Clayton Halunen claims that after Priefer lied to investigators twice he then admitted to making the comments.

In a meeting with the Vikings on Thursday, Halunen gave the team until Friday to meet their settlement requirements, which included $1 million that Kluwe would donate to charities that support LGBT causes (the Vikings, Halunen said, had offered only $100,000), the release of the full findings of the investigation and a suspension of at least four games for Priefer.

The Vikings did not respond to those requests, Halunen said, which led Kluwe to take to Twitter on Friday to voice his frustrations, claiming that "next week is open season."

After that post, Kluwe told the Star Tribune he plans to file suit against the Vikings in Minnesota state court next week.

"At this point it seems that there's a culture there that needs to be changed," Kluwe said Friday. "If there was anything in the report then people need to know that. And obviously there is something in the report because the Vikings don't want to release it. If it cleared the team, they would have it out. They would've released it any time and put it out. It's pretty obvious there's something in there that they don't like."

He said he's disappointed that the Vikings originally wanted to be transparent with the investigation but have waited seven months without releasing a word of the report.

"And all of a sudden, they decided they don't want to do that anymore," Kluwe said. "Frankly, I find that unacceptable."

HOW MUCH DETAIL?

In a July 8 e-mail Halunen sent Madel, obtained by the Star Tribune from a source close to the investigation, Halunen appears to suggest that the Kluwe team no longer wants the entire report released.

"... The more I think about it I believe it would be a mistake for a number of reasons," Halunen writes. "They (referring to "the details") will only provide fodder for the media and pundits to attack the methodology, integrity or content to serve their own agenda. Finally, why should confidences shared by witnesses during the course of the investigation that may be very personal in nature be shared publicly? It's (sic) seems as though public disclosure would more likely open a Pandora's box than provide public confidence in the investigation."

When asked about the letter, Halunen said his client wants the 150-page investigation released but not the "thousands of pages" of "backup data" containing interviews and other private matters unrelated to the investigation to protect the confidentially of the other witnesses.

In the 150-page report Halunen and Kluwe want released, Halunen said there are unflattering findings regarding Kluwe. He said their team was and is not trying to hide anything.

"He said some things that might be offensive to some people, and he completely owns that," Halunen said. "It's sort of a different culture. A lot of stuff goes on in the locker room. Sometimes, on occasion, he's part of that too. ... It was jokes. Anyone that would read it would say, 'Oh, that's funny.' Nothing that we're worried about at all. All innocent stuff."

Halunen did not see Kluwe's unflattering remarks, which Kluwe admitted on Twitter Friday night includes jokes about the Penn State football sex-abuse scandal, as a contradiction to Kluwe's letter publicly releasing Priefer's anti-gay comments in January.

"The guys in the locker room, it's a different culture," Halunen said. "They kid around all the time with the stuff they do in the locker room. What we're talking about, we're talking about management who engaged in such hostile conduct leaving such hateful words. This is a leader. This isn't kidding around in the locker room. That's what's very different."

The Star Tribune has not reached Kluwe for a follow-up comment since the report was released. Kluwe did take to Twitter, however, and made it clear he still wants the full report released.

(c)2014 Star Tribune (Minneapolis)

Visit the Star Tribune (Minneapolis) at www.startribune.com

Distributed by MCT Information Services


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