Chris Kluwe and the Vikings finally settled their differences, seven months after the outspoken former punter wrote an Internet article that sparked both controversy and a long investigation.
The team will donate an undisclosed amount to five charities over the next five years to benefit lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) and anti-hate groups, and will sponsor a fundraiser.
Kluwe said he did not receive any money in the settlement.
“This will help a lot of people that really need that help,” Kluwe said. “I think the Vikings are committed to making changes. I think they’re committed on this issue in the NFL, and I think it will make a difference over the upcoming year.”
Kluwe, in a January online article on Deadspin, accused special teams coach Mike Priefer of saying, “We should round up all the gays, send them to an island, and then nuke it until it glows.”
The Vikings launched an independent investigation, but did not release the 150-page report when the investigation ended in June; instead, they issued a 29-page summary in which Priefer admitted the statement, saying it was “a joke between three men.”
Kluwe and his attorney, Clayton Halunen, threatened a lawsuit last month to force the release of the entire report, which will remain closed.
Halunen said he was provided access to the full report, which allayed concerns there might be a systematic discrimination problem in the organization left out of the summary.
“After we had a chance to review it, we found out there was nothing there,” Halunen said. “We’re satisfied with what we’re provided and that there is no issue.”
The Vikings said they would enhance sensitivity training throughout the organization and will enforce a zero-tolerance policy for any discrimination in their club code of conduct.
“What we’re doing now is breaking it up into four different seminars,” said Kevin Warren, Vikings executive vice president of legal affairs. “We’ll have players, coaches and staff people so that we can make sure that the training that we do is much more focused for that individual group. … We just want to continually enhance what we’ve already been doing … to make sure we’re doing the proper training to help educate our organization.”
The Vikings also agreed to sponsor a national symposium in Minneapolis involving LGBT leaders and professional athletes this spring.
Priefer will be suspended for the first three games of the regular season, which could be reduced to two games at the team’s discretion if he completes sensitivity training.
“We appreciate Chris Kluwe’s contributions to the Minnesota Vikings as a player and a member of this organization during his eight seasons in which he established many team records as our punter, and we wish him and his family the best in the future,” Vikings owner Zygi Wilf said in a statement. “In regards to this matter, our focus remains on maintaining a culture of tolerance, inclusion and respect, and creating the best workplace environment for our players, coaches and staff.”
Kluwe said Priefer made the statement late in the 2012 season, and Kluwe was cut before the 2013 season. He briefly latched on with the Oakland Raiders, who cut him before the regular season started. After not playing in the NFL in 2013, he wrote the Deadspin piece in January.
He has also written a book, a collection of essays called “Beautifully Unique Sparkleponies.”
“We went into this case to do one thing: to show the allegations that Chris made were truthful, that this hate-filled speech occurred, and it was not tolerable,” Halunen said. “At the end of the day, regardless of compensation, we set out to have a meaningful settlement that would effectuate change, and that’s what we obtained, and we’re satisfied with that.”