The battle between punter Chris Kluwe and the Vikings rolled from Friday night’s action by the team — suspending special teams coordinator Mike Priefer three games — into a Saturday full of accusations.
Kluwe and his attorney said there was “substantial” evidence left out in the 29-page summary the team released of the six-month investigation involving Priefer’s anti-gay remarks during the 2012 season. The Vikings, in conjunction with their Friday release, suspended Priefer (he will miss two games if he completes workplace training) and donated $100,000 to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender causes.
“He’s going to get a two-game suspension and do some sensitivity training,” said Clayton Halunen, Kluwe’s Minneapolis-based attorney. “That’s the extent of the action the Vikings organization is going to take. It’s incredible to me.”
The Vikings declined to comment Saturday, referring back to the statements released with the summary Friday night.
Halunen and Kluwe both said the Vikings’ summary falsely concluded that there was not a discriminative culture within the organization. Kluwe’s team believes the full report — which it has not seen — will show that.
“This thing that came out is not a report and not remotely close to the report,” Halunen said. “It’s just a whitewash to try make a defense for that case that’s going to be brought against them.”
Kluwe will continue with the pending discrimination lawsuit. Halunen expects it to be filed no later than Wednesday in “excess of $10 million” against the Vikings.
Kluwe and Halunen said only three of the 29 summary pages address Priefer, the subject of the investigation, and that the Vikings’ release was merely a “defense summary” for the pending lawsuit.
Halunen said the Vikings’ summary did not mention any sort of religious discrimination claims that Kluwe referenced in a news conference Tuesday and plans to include in his lawsuit. It only addressed, Halunen said, the claims Kluwe mentioned in his original accusation: Priefer’s alleged homophobic comments, whether the organization discouraged Kluwe’s activism in support of marriage equality and if that motivated the team to release him in May 2013 and whether there were institutional failures that created a hostile work environment on the basis of sexual orientation.
Kluwe wrote an article for the sports website Deadspin in January that claimed Priefer said in a team setting: “We should round up all the gays, send them to an island, and then nuke it until it glows.”
Priefer immediately denied the comment and again initially denied it during the investigation, but on Friday, he apologized for an anti-gay remark in a statement released by the Vikings.
Seeking full report
The full investigation report, which was led by former U.S. Department of Justice attorney Chris Madel and former Minnesota Supreme Court Chief Justice Eric Magnuson, is estimated around 150 pages.
Halunen and Kluwe said they had hoped to keep some of the “backup data” documents private in their fight for the full report. Now, Halunen said Saturday he will serve the Vikings with a discovery request asking for the entire report, including the “backup data” that contains “thousands of pages” that he originally did not want to be released publicly, as stated in a July 8 e-mail sent to Madel and obtained by the Star Tribune. There are private matters, unrelated to the investigation, in some of the interviews that Kluwe said he wanted to withhold to protect those involved. But Halunen said his legal team now wants every document in order to clear Kluwe’s name.
“We’re now going to do everything we can just to set the record straight of what the truth is,” Halunen said. “If we have to produce to the public the entire report with all the citations and all the attachment data, we will do that because we want this to be transparent.”
Kluwe had expected that the Vikings would release the report during the investigation, but the Vikings instead released a summary, commissioned by Donald Prophete and Littler Mendelson, whom the Vikings hired two weeks ago.
Kluwe said he believes the organization is trying to cover up something.
“It really does seem like the tactics of a big corporation that is currently getting public money to fund their stadium that found something that they did not want to find and now are trying desperately to shift attention somewhere else,” Kluwe told the Star Tribune on Saturday.
The investigation found that former strength coach Tom Kanavy was the subject of a joke Kluwe made about the Penn State scandal involving assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky. Kluwe said he vaguely remembers the situation that Kanavy — who went to Penn State and coached there — described in the summary. Kanavy said Kluwe pretended to be a “Penn State victim” by wearing pants with the seat cut out and his buttocks exposed, informing Kanavy to “stay away.”
“From what I recall, the purpose of the joke was to make fun of that kind of culture that allowed that to happen,” Kluwe said Saturday. “I’m not an idiot. I’m not going to make fun of child molestation victims. That’s horrible.”
On Twitter Friday night, Kluwe admitted the Penn State jokes, and then, in a follow-up tweet, accused the Vikings of giving some players special treatment. He suggested the team covered up two “very well known Vikings players” being caught in a “compromising situation with an underage girl.”
Halunen said the details of this serious allegation, which Kluwe claimed occurred around 2009, will come in the course of the upcoming litigation to show that Kluwe was treated less favorably than other players on the team.
“If another player engaged in some wrongful criminal conduct, and that was overlooked while my client engaged in the conduct that he engaged in and was terminated,” Halunen said. “That’s very relevant and probative.”
The team declined to comment on Kluwe’s allegation.
In Friday’s statement, team owners Mark and Zygi Wilf wrote: “We are very disappointed with some of the findings contained within the report. As we have said in the past, we consistently strive to create — and believe we have — a supportive, respectful and accepting environment for our players, coaches and staff, and we strongly dissociate the club from the statement that Coach Priefer made.
“Coach Priefer is a good man, and we know that he deeply regrets the comment. We do not believe that this error in judgment should define him. Accountability, however, is important both on and off the field. In this instance, Coach Priefer fell short of what is expected.”
On Saturday, the NFL came out in support of the Vikings and their investigation. League spokesman Greg Aiello’s statement read: “We support our clubs enforcing their workplace policies and commend the Wilfs for doing a thorough investigation and taking appropriate steps in response to the findings.”