Matt Vensel is in his first year at the Star Tribune after covering the Ravens for the Baltimore Sun for six years. He is a Pittsburgh native and a Penn State grad. Follow him at @mattvensel.
Mark Craig has covered the NFL for 23 years, and the Vikings since 2003 for the Star Tribune. He is one of 44 Pro Football Hall of Fame selectors. Follow him at @markcraignfl.
Master Tesfatsion is the Star Tribune’s digital Vikings writer. He is a 2013 graduate of Arizona State and worked for mlb.com before arriving in Minneapolis. Follow him at @masterstrib.
Former Vikings punter Chris Kluwe said negotiations have stalled with the Vikings and that he will go forward with the lawsuit.
Kluwe and his lawyer, Clayton Halunen, both said they’re in the process of litigation at the moment. They said the Vikings were still not interested in releasing the full report, which was a non-negotiable part of the settlement. Kluwe expects the lawsuit to be filed as early on Monday against the Vikings, claiming discrimination on the grounds of human rights, religion, defamation and “tortious interference for contractual relations.”
Kluwe said along with releasing the report, he asked that the Vikings would donate $1 million to LGBT charities and also suspended special teams coach Mike Priefer, who Kluwe alleged made anti-gay remarks in a letter to Deadspin in January, for four-to-eight games under the conduct policy of the NFL and the Vikings.
“At this point it seems that there’s a culture there that needs to be changed,” Kluwe said on Friday. “If there was anything in the report then people need to know that. And obviously there is something in the report because the Vikings don’t want to release it. If it cleared the team, they would have it out. They would’ve released it any time and put it out. It’s pretty obvious there’s something in there that they don’t like.”
Kluwe expressed his frustration on Twitter on Friday afternoon, claiming that “next week is open season.” He’s disappointed that the Vikings wanted to be transparent with the investigation but have waited seven months without even releasing the report.
“And all of a sudden, they decided they don’t want to do that anymore,” Kluwe said. “Frankly, I find that unacceptable.
“The NFL is a business and the Vikings are a business just like any other business. If they’re going to take public funding for stadiums, if they’re going to take public funding for Super Bowls, then they have an obligation to react under the appropriate state laws. They can’t foster an environment that hides homophobia and bigotry because no other corporate environment will allow that.”
We have reached out to the Vikings for comment and will update when we hear back.
The Vikings and Clayton Halunen, the attorney for former Vikings punter Chris Kluwe, will continue to talk and engage in settlement discussions after the two sides met Thursday, Halunen said.
Two days ago, Kluwe announced plans to file suit against the team, claiming discrimination on the grounds of human rights and religion, defamation and “tortious interference for contractual relations.” Kluwe said that he was filing the suit because the Vikings told him that they will not release the full findings of their six-month investigation into special teams coordinator Mike Priefer.
Both the Vikings and the independent investigators hired by the team -- including former U.S. Department of Justice attorney Chris Madel and former Minnesota Supreme Court justice Eric Magnuson -- disputed that claim. In a statement, the investigators said Tuesday they “at no time” said “that the Vikings ‘would not provide a copy of the report to either Kluwe or the public.’”
Kluwe clarified in a Wednesday interview with Vikefans.com, saying the Vikings told Kluwe and Halunen that they planned to release only a summary of their findings, not their full report.
Vikings officials have not said whether any or all of the findings would be made public.
Kluwe has accused Priefer of expressing anti-gay sentiments during the 2012 season and he also believes his public support of marriage equality led to his release before the 2013 season.
Halunen said Tuesday that he thought “this case was all wrapped up” because he was working with the Vikings on the terms of a settlement that was to be “in concert with the release of the report.” Halunen said that Kluwe, who has not kicked in an NFL game since the Vikings released him, would receive $1 million from the Vikings to donate to charities that support LGBT causes.
It looks as if the investigation into Chris Kluwe’s claims that Vikings special teams coordinator Mike Priefer made anti-gay remarks during the 2012 season is close to becoming public.
All interviews have been completed, according to former U.S. Department of Justice attorney Chris Madel, one of the investigators, and the team’s independent investigation into Priefer has reached its conclusion. The findings are expected to be finalized and handed over to the Vikings next week.
After they receive the report, the Vikings may have to huddle up with the NFL’s legal team before the results are made public and an announcement is made about whether Priefer will be disciplined. That process could still take a couple of weeks, but the end is in sight.
Meanwhile, Kluwe’s attorney, Clayton Halunen, was scheduled to meet with the Vikings’ lawyers on Thursday to further discuss the investigation into Priefer.
Priefer was accused by Kluwe, the former Vikings punter, of making anti-gay remarks during the 2012 season. Kluwe, in an article published on the website Deadspin in January, also said that he believed his public support of marriage equality led to his release from the team in 2013.
The Vikings launched a lengthy investigation into Priefer, who has been on the staff since 2011. Madel is heading the investigation along with former Minnesota Supreme Court chief justice Eric Magnuson.
Priefer, who was retained by new coach Mike Zimmer, said earlier today that his focus is on football.
The investigation into Vikings special teams coordinator Mike Priefer is expected to be wrapped up and released to the public in the coming weeks, perhaps as early as this weekend. Priefer was accused by former Vikings punter Chris Kluwe of making anti-gay remarks in team meetings.
Priefer, who was one of three coaches retained by new head coach Mike Zimmer, just spoke with reporters for the first time this offseason. He said his focus is on the Vikings, not the investigation.
“It’s been one of those things, I come to work every morning and I’m excited about the direction of this football team,” Priefer said after today’s morning walkthrough. “I really like our coaching staff and I’m excited about our new players and excited about the guys we retained and came back. So my focus has been totally on football.”
After Kluwe claimed Priefer made anti-gay remarks during the 2012 season and that the punter’s public support of LGBT rights led to his release in 2013, the Vikings launched an investigation into Priefer, who has been on the staff since 2011. The investigation is headed by former Minnesota chief justice Eric Magnuson and former U.S. department of justice attorney Chris Madel.
In a statement issued in January, Priefer “vehemently” denied the claims Kluwe made on Deadspin.
Vikings general manager Rick Spielman said quarterback Christian Ponder “will be here” next season but the team still plans to address the need at quarterback in the offseason.
Ponder will enter the final year of his rookie deal and expected to make $3.2 million in base salary and bonuses. All of that money is dead money however, meaning it would still count against the cap if the Vikings opted to cut Ponder.
"Christian will be here; I don’t anticipate anything -- him not being here," Spielman said on Friday.
The 12th pick in the 2011 NFL Draft hasn’t solved the Vikings’ problem at quarterback over the last three seasons. He played just nine games last year and threw for a career-low 1,648 yards after playing all 16 games in 2012.
Spielman said he’s interested to see when Vikings offensive coordinator Norv Turner and quarterbacks coach Scott Turner get a chance to work with him.
“We’re not closing the door on anything and any player here,” Spielman said. “We’ve been through on personnel and our coaches and it’s a lot different when they’ve looked at our players and how they can utilize them this way or that way. I’m anxious to see when they get out there and get on the field with these guys that they’ll get a true sense of what they’re strengths and weaknesses are and how they can utilize it within their systems.”
Spielman hasn’t closed the door on bringing quarterback Matt Cassel back either, but he said the organization will bring in two quarterbacks in during the offseason. With a younger quarterback in the draft a sure lock at this point based on what Spielman and Norv Turner have said over the last two weeks, Spielman hinted he’d be open to bringing a veteran to “mentor” whoever the organization selects.
Other notes from Spielman’s 50-minute interview:
*Spielman said defensive end Michael Sam’s decision to openly announce he’s gay will not impact his draft stock with the organization. He said it’s wrong if a team does change its status on Sam because of his announcement and plans to judge him purely on football.
Special teams coordinator Mike Priefer is the center of an independent review regarding claims from former punter Chris Kluwe of anti-gay remarks.
“I know that we will make sure that our culture is created where he could fit in to our locker room,” said Spielman on if the Vikings select Sam in the draft.”
* The Vikings completed their staff by hiring head strength and conditioning coach Evan Marcus and assistant strength and conditioning coach Jeff Hurd on Friday. Marcus has 22 years of coaching experience and spent the last three seasons as the University of Virginia's Director of Football Training and Player Development. This will be Hurd's 29th year coaching and was the strength and conditioning coach during Turner's tenure as the Chargers head coach from 2007-2012.
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