Mike Priefer is a lucky guy today. Yes, lucky.
If he worked for another employer, the Vikings special teams coordinator might be out of a job. Instead, he will only serve a three-game suspension — two, if he completes certain conditions — for making hurtful remarks about gays and then lying about his comments to anyone who would listen.
Priefer is lucky his insensitive comments didn’t get him fired because the Vikings would have been justified in doing so. Based on both his comments and his steadfast denial in the aftermath, the team certainly had grounds to dismiss Priefer, and I would have supported it.
A six-month investigation into Priefer’s comments to former punter Chris Kluwe brought an apology from Priefer, who also must accept his suspension and the national embarrassment that comes with an admission that he made this hideous remark: “We should round up all the gays, send them to an island, and then nuke it until it glows.”
Priefer told investigators that he only made that comment as a joke “between three people, three men.”
Funny stuff, huh?
Kluwe isn’t free of stench in this case, though. The release of the report prompted an admission by Kluwe’s camp that he made some “offensive” comments to people inside the organization. Specifically, Kluwe acknowledged on Twitter Friday night that he made a disparaging joke about the Penn State child-abuse scandal because a Vikings strength coach went to school there.
Does anyone find what Jerry Sandusky did even remotely comical? You can’t paint Kluwe as a sympathetic figure in light of that revelation.
This whole Kluwe-vs.-Priefer/Vikings saga reeks of idiotic juvenile behavior by supposed adults. Or “men,” as Priefer would say.
Maybe this stuff passes as comedy in an NFL locker room, but nobody looks good in this situation. Not Kluwe, not the Vikings, certainly not Priefer, although he’s still employed so he should feel grateful for that.
Personally, I feel bad for the one person caught in the middle of this mess, veteran long snapper Cullen Loeffler, as nice a guy as you will find in that locker room. Loeffler confirmed the “nuke” comment to investigators, which forced Priefer, his position coach and immediate supervisor, to admit to investigators that, yes, he may have made that remark.
That should make things fairly awkward in that relationship this season.
At least we now know the truth. Until the release of the report, this has been nothing more than a he-said-he-said stare down.
Kluwe dropped a bomb on the organization with his post on the website Deadspin in January. Later that evening, Priefer released a terse statement to the team’s beat writers.
Here’s what he wrote that day:
“I vehemently deny today’s allegations made by Chris Kluwe. I want to be clear that I do not tolerate discrimination of any type and am respectful of all individuals. I personally have gay family members who I love and support just as I do any family member. The comments today have not only attacked my character and insulted my professionalism, but they have also impacted my family.”
And here was what Priefer wrote Friday: “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. 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.”
So here’s a question: Do you believe Priefer would have admitted to making that statement if Loeffler hadn’t told investigators the truth? Easy answer, right? That’s why Priefer is lucky the Vikings are giving him a second chance.
As far as Kluwe’s belief that the Vikings cut him strictly because of his advocacy for gay marriage, I don’t buy it. To the contrary, owner Zygi Wilf applauded his work in this area.
The organization absolutely had grown tired of Kluwe’s outspokenness on a number of issues, but they also considered his age, his performance and his salary — all factors working against him — in deciding to make a change. That’s one argument Kluwe can’t win because it’s impossible to prove, without any shadow of a doubt, why he was released.
Apparently, the report won’t bring resolution to this case. Kluwe told the Star Tribune on Friday that he still plans to sue the Vikings, so this saga could drag on. And this dark cloud will follow the Vikings to training camp in Mankato this coming week, an unwelcome distraction for first-year coach Mike Zimmer.
As sad as it sounds, this ugly situation could become even messier before it’s over.