Vikings Claim No Fault in Report, Kluwe Will Continue With Lawsuit
Minnesota Vikings special teams coordinator Mike Priefer was officially suspended for three days following the release of an internal investigation spurred by former punter Chris Kluwe's allegations of a hostile and homophobic work environment.
Vikings owner Zygi Wilf and president Mark Wilf said Priefer "fell short of what is expected." He will be suspended for the first three games of the regular season, without pay. He will also be required to go to specialized workplace training, and if he successfully completes the training, his suspension will be reduced to two games. The team will also donate $100,000 to LGBT rights groups, according to ESPN.
It was confirmed that Priefer said in a meeting with players, "We should round up all the gays, send them to an island, and then nuke it until it glows." Priefer apologized in a statement released with a summary of the findings in the investigation.
"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," he said. "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 Wilfs said they were disappointed by some of the behaviors documented in the report.
"Coach Priefer is a good man, and we know that he deeply regrets the comment," they said. "We do not believe that this error in judgment should define him. Accountability, however, is important both on and off the field."
The study was conducted by former Chief Justice of the Minnesota Supreme Court Eric Magnuson and former U.S. Department of Justice trial attorney Chris Madel, two partners of Robins, Kaplan, Miller & Ciresi. They hired former Pro Bowl punter Craig Hentrich and former NFL personnel eccutive Jerry Angelo to evaluate Kluwe's performance during the 2012 season. According to the Vikings, the six-month investigation yielded "no wrongdoing on the club's part, and the decision to release [Kluwe] was based on his on-field performance."
"We also did not find sufficient evidence to establish that members of the Vikings organization attempted to discourage Kluwe from engaging in marriage equality or equal rights activism," the report said.
After the report was released Friday, Kluwe said that he still intends to sue the team, as he alleges the team still encouraged a hostile work environment. He did add, however, that he may have taken part in the behavior in some points by ribbing a strength coach who had ties to Penn State.
"Sure I gave my strength coach a hard time. Once. I made a joke about the Sandusky case, because he was a big Penn State guy," Kluwe tweeted. "Over half the team did it for over a month, including asking him if he 'raped any little boys lately,' repeatedly, in front of coaches. That's in the report, by the way, but you wouldn't know it from the Vikings' version. Wonder what else they might be covering?"
As previously reported, the report said team brass found Kluwe's activism a "distraction," but the report maintained it was not what Kluwe was fighting for, but rather that he was fighting in the first place.
"The record supports the conclusion that players and management were concerned about the distraction that Kluwe's activism was creating, as opposed to the nature and content of his activism," the report noted. "The record does not support the contention that members of management and the coaching staff were focused on discouraging Kluwe based on the nature of his activism."