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Former Minnesota Vikings punter Chris Kluwe.

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Attorney Clayton Halunen, at a news conference Tuesday with ex-Vikings punter Chris Kluwe, said he was told the team’s investigative report won’t be released. The team disputes that claim.

ELIZABETH FLORES • eflores@startribune.com,

Kluwe will sue if Vikings don't release discrimination investigation report

  • Article by: Matt Vensel
  • Star Tribune
  • July 16, 2014 - 1:16 AM

 

Chris Kluwe and his attorney have turned to their hurry-up offense.

The former Vikings punter said Tuesday he plans to file a lawsuit against the team in hopes it will release the findings of its six-month investigation into special teams coordinator Mike Priefer. Kluwe, who was released before the 2013 season, said the Vikings are “reneging on a promise” to provide results of the investigation of alleged anti-gay sentiments expressed by Priefer during the 2012 season.

Kluwe and his attorney, Clayton Halunen, said they plan to take legal action against the Vikings, claiming discrimination on the grounds of human rights, religion, defamation and “tortious interference for contractual relations.”

“They’ve refused to accept responsibility and be accountable for the culture that has been created within the Minnesota Vikings that has been exposed by Chris,” Halunen said.

Halunen said he thought “this case was all wrapped up” because he was working with the Vikings on the terms of a financial settlement that was to be “in concert with the release of the report.” One of those terms, according to Halunen, was that Kluwe would receive $1 million from the Vikings to donate to charities that support LGBT causes.

“He’s never been in it for the money,” Halunen said of Kluwe, 32, who played eight seasons for the Vikings and holds more than a dozen team punting records.

Halunen claimed that in a Monday meeting with the independent investigators hired by the Vikings — including former U.S. Department of Justice attorney Chris Madel and former Minnesota Supreme Court justice Eric Magnuson — he was told the report would not be released to Kluwe or to the public. That prompted Kluwe to take a red-eye flight from his home in California to attend Tuesday’s news conference.

The Vikings said they planned to meet with Halunen on Thursday. Madel and Magnuson issued a statement saying their firm met with Halunen on Monday and “at no time” told him “that the Vikings ‘would not provide a copy of the report to either Kluwe or the public.’ ”

The investigation started after Kluwe made his accusations in a Jan. 2 post on the website Deadspin.com. It was completed in late June and turned over to the Vikings.

Team evaluates

In a statement, the Vikings said “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.” Those recommendations are expected to be provided to the team this week.

“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,” the statement concluded.

The Vikings have not said whether any or all of the findings would be made public; a team spokesman declined Tuesday to offer a timetable for a resolution.

Kluwe, who was set to earn $1.4 million in 2013, was released after the Vikings drafted Jeff Locke that year and gave him a four-year contract that averages slightly less than $600,000 per season. Kluwe ranked 24th in the NFL in 2012 with an average of 45.0 yards per punt; Locke was 24th last season at 44.2.

Kluwe, who was cut by the Raiders after the 2013 preseason, was not with any team during the regular season. He said he is eager to punt in the NFL, but he believes his football career likely ended when he went public with his allegations early this year.

Allegations in question

In his post on Deadspin.com, Kluwe called Priefer a “bigot” and accused General Manager Rick Spielman and former coach Leslie Frazier of releasing him largely based on his outspoken support of same-sex marriage. Among his allegations, Kluwe wrote that Priefer said before a special teams meeting that included Kluwe, “We should round up all the gays, send them to an island, and then nuke it until it glows.”

Priefer, in a statement after the article went public, denied the allegations. Halunen believes that aspect of the report will side with Kluwe.

“We’re familiar with many of the findings of the report,” Halunen said Tuesday at his office in the IDS Center. “We do know that it has been corroborated that Priefer did in fact make the ‘nuke the gays’ statement by witnesses. We know that Priefer in the investigation originally denied any knowledge of the statement. When he was asked a second time, he again denied it. [Once] it was corroborated by witnesses, he finally relented and told the truth and admitted it.”

Asked for a comment from Priefer, a Vikings spokesman said the coordinator, who was retained by new head coach Mike Zimmer, would not be made available to reporters until the team determined how to proceed after reviewing the recommendations from Littler Mendelson.

Hopes for change

Kluwe, who wore a T-shirt that read “Punters are people, too” under his sport coat, said he would reconsider the lawsuit if the Vikings release the report.

“This is something that happens in work environments across the country, and if we want to change that, then we need to know that it happens and how we can change it, and sweeping it under the rug and keeping the report private does not help us do that,” Kluwe said. “So I think it’s just important that everybody see what is there.

“Yeah, it will probably hurt. These things always do. But the only way we are going to fix it is if we acknowledge that and make systematic changes all the way through the organization — up to management — and say that we are not going to tolerate this kind of thing, we’re not going to tolerate our [employees] being discriminated against.”

 

Staff writer Paul Walsh contributed to this story.

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