Former NFL punter Kluwe to sue Vikings
MINNEAPOLIS — Chris Kluwe, the former Minnesota Vikings punter, said Tuesday he will sue the team because they are refusing to release the results of an investigation into claims his support for same-sex marriage led to his firing.
The investigation, which began in January after Kluwe publicly accused special-teams coordinator Mike Priefer of making insulting remarks about gays and the punter’s religious preferences, was launched by the Vikings and conducted by attorneys hired by the team.
Kluwe and his attorney, Clayton Halunen, have said the report would be made public when completed. However, the Vikings have never officially confirmed their intentions — nor would they be legally required to publicly release the results.
Kluwe and Halunen held a press conference Tuesday morning to announce their intention to sue. They said the team reneged on a promise to make the investigation public.
Halunen said he was contacted by Vikings’ representatives on Monday and told they do not intend to make the report available either to Kluwe or to the public.
“At this point, we have no choice but to file a lawsuit against the Vikings,” Halunen said.
His first request in the legal proceedings will be for the report, he said.
The Vikings responded with a statement Tuesday, denying they had said the results wouldn’t be released.
“(The) Vikings have never made or broken promises as Kluwe and his attorney Clayton Halunen have claimed,” the Vikings said in a statement on their website Tuesday morning.
“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.”
Kluwe has accused Priefer of making homophobic remarks during a 2012 position meeting and other off-color religious comments after the punter became a public advocate for same-sex marriage.
In January, Kluwe wrote a first-person account of his allegations for the website Deadspin.com, which prompted team officials to launch the investigation.
“He would ask me if I had written any letters defending ‘the gays’ recently and denounce as disgusting the idea that two men would kiss, and he would constantly belittle or demean any idea of acceptance or tolerance,” Kluwe wrote in his Jan. 2 piece on Deadspin.
Kluwe, who identifies as agnostic, recalled Priefer telling him he would “wind up burning in hell with the gays, and that the only truth was Jesus Christ and the Bible,” according to his piece in Deadspin.
Kluwe also accused Priefer of saying in a November 2012 meeting, “We should round up all the gays, send them to an island, and then nuke it until it glows.”
Team officials have said they took Kluwe’s allegations seriously, which is why they hired former Minnesota Supreme Court Chief Justice Eric Magnuson and former U.S. Department of Justice attorney Chris Madel, both partners at Robins, Kaplan, Miller & Ciresi, to perform an independent review.
After six months, the investigative materials were reportedly turned over to the team.
“After the Vikings were given the investigative materials from Magnuson and Madel, in order to further maintain objectivity and integrity, the team engaged a nationally-prominent law firm — Littler Mendelson P.C. — to evaluate employment law matters and provide findings and recommendations to the Vikings,” according to the team’s Tuesday statement. “Those recommendations are to be provided to the team this week.”
Kluwe has said he believes he was released by the team in May 2013 as a direct result of his outspoken support for same-sex marriage, despite being told by coaches that was not the case.
He initially had a year from his May 6, 2013, release to file a wrongful termination suit. But the Vikings agreed to extend Kluwe’s deadline. It essentially allows him to pursue a suit if he doesn’t like the outcome of the investigation.
The investigation is important, Kluwe said Tuesday, because he believes it will validate his claims of a homophobic and discriminatory culture, which “is something that happens in workplaces all over the country.”
“If we just sweep this under the rug, nothing will ever change,” he said Tuesday.
Asked why the other players weren’t publicly backing him up, Kluwe said he understood they were protecting their own jobs.
“I can understand why my former teammates didn’t want to say anything or didn’t want to publicly say anything because they ran the same risk of having what happened to me happen to them,” he said.
Kluwe, 32, was signed by the Oakland Raiders in May 2013 but released a few months later. He said he hasn’t been contacted by a single team since the Deadspin article was published in January.
In January, asked if everything in the investigation would become public, Madel said: “I will draft a report and I will give it to the Vikings and I assume at that time they will share it with the NFL. At that point, a decision will be made on whether or not it will be made public.”
Kluwe and Halunen are slated to meet with Vikings representatives Thursday.
At that meeting, the parties will “discuss next steps,” the Vikings said in their Tuesday statement. Halunen said he suspects the Vikings will “suggest something like an executive summary, but that is not acceptable.”
A call to Madel was not immediately returned Tuesday. Neither were calls to Kluwe and Halunen for comment on the Vikings’ statement.
Chris Tomasson and Kevin Cusick contributed to this report.
The Pioneer Press is a media partner with Forum News Service.