Vikings, Chris Kluwe beef goes nuclear after investigators side with team

Kluwe claims the report released by the Vikings is a coverup.
Kluwe claims the report released by the Vikings is a coverup.
KSTP screengrab

On Friday, the Vikings released a summary of the six-month internal investigation Robins, Kaplan, Miller & Ciresi L.L.P. conducted into former team punter Chris Kluwe's claim that his outspoken advocacy for marriage equality prompted his release from the team following the 2012 season.

The investigators found that while special teams coach Mike Priefer in all likelihood did make the most explosive of the anti-gay statements Kluwe accused him of -- namely, "We should round up all the gays, send them to an island, and then nuke it until it glows" -- the reprehensible comment was not reflective of a hostile, homophobic work environment.

See also:
Kluwe says Vikings reneged on vow to release report about alleged organizational homophobia

The investigators' findings support the conclusion that Kluwe's "support of marriage equality and other activism played no part in the decision to release him," the summary says. "It was purely a football decision."

(The report does note that while team employees interviewed by investigators said "they did not hear any intentionally derogatory or harassing comments toward gay individuals," several "noted 'insensitive' or 'immature' comments, such as, the clothing someone was wearing 'looks gay.'")

After the report was released, Kluwe took to Twitter and said the summary leaves out key evidence supporting his position. He promised to push forward with a wrongful termination lawsuit. Here's a sampling of what he tweeted:

Kluwe also suggested he has bombshell information he plans to drop on the Vikings if his case makes it to trial:

The Vikings, for their part, released a statement announcing that Priefer will be suspended for three games (two, if certain conditions are met) without pay this season.

In the statement, Vikings owners Mark and Zygi Wilf are quoted as saying, "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 disassociate the club from the statement that Coach Priefer made," the brothers say. "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."

In the statement, Priefer is quoted as saying, "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," he continues. "I am extremely sorry but I will learn from this situation and will work on educating others to create more tolerance and respect."

The 29-page summary contains more than a few tidbits of interesting information, some unflattering for Kluwe, others for the Vikings. To read about the six that stuck out to us the most, click to page two.

6. Kluwe didn't react to Priefer's "nuke the gays" comment as if he thought it was a big deal at the time

According to the summary, Vikings long snapper Collen Loeffler backed up Kluwe's claim about Priefer making his infamous "nuke the gays" comment, but said neither he nor Kluwe reacted as though they were especially offended at the time. From the report:

Loeffler reported... that he did hear Priefer make a comment about "putting all the gays on an island and nuking it" while on the practice field at Winter Park. Loeffler said that Priefer made this statement after becoming frustrated that Loeffler and Kluwe were not focused on football during practice. Loeffler commented that he did not think that Priefer was serious when he made the "nuclear" comment and that he thought Priefer was just trying to stop Kluwe and Loeffler's joking around. Furthermore, Loeffler said that both he and Kluwe laughed off Priefer's comment at the time. Loeffler did not corroborate Kluwe's claims regarding any other comments Priefer allegedly made.

5. Priefer changed his story once Loeffler corroborated Kluwe's account

Though Priefer initially denied saying anything along the lines of "nuke the gays," his tune changed once investigators told him about Loeffler corroborating Kluwe's account.

"During his second interview on May 13, 2014, when confronted with Loeffler's statement, Priefer noted that '[i]f [Loeffler] remembers me saying something on the practice field, I am not going to disagree with it,'" the summary says. "While Priefer accepted what Loeffler conveyed and acknowledged that he may have made the statement, he was adamant that any comment was made in jest, as Loeffler confirmed. Priefer said, 'It was a joke between three people, three men.'"

Loeffler, for his part, was initially concerned about being "blacklisted from the NFL" if he corroborated Kluwe's claim and "become associated with a controversy involving Priefer," the summary notes. He's still employed by the Vikings today, however.

4. Priefer's comment aside, the Vikings thought Kluwe stunk up the joint in 2012

The report does not paint Kluwe's on-field 2012 performance in a flattering light, to say the least.

The summary devotes pages to Kluwe's shaky performance during the 2012 season, after which the consensus among the coaching staff was that "Kluwe was too highly paid and too erratic for kicking outdoors." In fact, one passage indicates that if it weren't for kicker Blair Walsh's stellar rookie campaign that year, Kluwe probably would've been jettisoned before the season was through.

From the summary:

[General Manage Rick Spielman] felt that Kluwe's performance was subpar during the 2012 season. In light of what he viewed as Kluwe's poor performance, Spielman recalled trying out punters during the 2012 season and even signing one punter on a futures contract. Spielman recalled that the Vikings did not immediately sign him because Kluwe was the holder for Blair Walsh who was having a Pro Bowl caliber season. Spielman and coaches did not want to disrupt Walsh's season by bringing in a new holder. Spielman noted that but for Walsh's success, the Vikings probably would have signed the workout punter for the season.

(For more, click to page three.)

3. Kluwe's off-field conduct didn't portray him in the best light, either

The summary contains this passage about a questionable prank Kluwe pulled on a Vikings coach:

Kluwe... made fun of the Vikings' then Head Strength and Conditioning Coach Tom Kanavy, an alumnus of ‒ and former coach at ‒ Penn State University, concerning the Jerry Sandusky/Penn State situation. In his interview, Kanavy explained that Kluwe cut the seat out of his pants and then put them on to imitate a victim of the Penn State child-abuse scandal. According to Kanavy, Kluwe said that he was a "Penn State victim" and to "stay away" from him while his buttocks were exposed.

Kluwe also allegedly dropped his pants "in front of 20-25 business people as they were being escorted through the locker room on a tour," the summary says.

Friday night, Kluwe and former MNGOP Rep. John Kriesel got into a Twitter war about Kluwe's Penn State joke. Here are the highlights:

The summary also notes, "There is consistent and weighty evidence from the record, mostly from Kluwe himself, that he viewed his performance as a member of the Vikings in an inflated manner."

"For instance, Kluwe, in at least one article, described himself as a very good punter," it continues. But "a closer look at several categories placed him at the bottom of the league."

(For more, click to page four.)

2. Kluwe was preparing his lawsuit even before he was released by the Vikings

In April 2013, the Vikings drafted UCLA punted Jeff Locke. Kluwe was still on the roster, but he understood his days were numbered as the team's punter.

Just days before his May 6 release, Kluwe "asked Loeffler to sign an affidavit stating that he had heard Priefer make homophobic statements," the summary says. Loeffler then informed Les Pico, Vikings executive director of player development, about the situation.

The summary details what happened when Pico summoned Kluwe about what Loeffler was telling him:

Kluwe then told Pico that he knew his time with the Vikings was finished and that all he wanted to do was to compete in the NFL and not be "blackballed"; if he was not blackballed, then "there would be no issue." Pico said, "Kluwe was adamant that he was not making a report to Pico because [Kluwe] knew he 'was already done with the Vikings.'" Kluwe told Pico he wanted the affidavit because it would provide him "leverage."

Kluwe wouldn't go public with his allegations about alleged homophobia in the organization until the following January.

1. The Vikings gave Kluwe good recommendations immediately following his release

Kluwe failed to catch on with another NFL team after the Vikings released him, but the summary indicates that wasn't because his former employer was badmouthing him. In fact, quite the contrary.

From the report:

After the Vikings released Kluwe, Priefer recalled that he spoke favorably to coaches from other teams, including the Cleveland Browns, who made inquiries about him. He recalled telling them that "He [Kluwe] doesn't bring 'off the field stuff' on the field." Spielman similarly spoke favorably of Kluwe to Reggie McKenzie of the Oakland Raiders, telling him that he would definitely "take a shot on Chris." Spielman also told McKenzie that he had no concerns about the "off-field stuff." Spielman said to McKenzie that Kluwe's political views were not a distraction. On May 15, 2013, the Oakland Raiders signed Kluwe to a one-year contract. After competing with Punter Marquette King during the preseason, the Raiders released Kluwe on September 1, 2013.

"There is no evidence that anyone at the Vikings said anything disparaging about Kluwe or in any way undercut Kluwe's opportunities with other teams," the summary continues. "Additionally, there is no evidence that any other team expressed concerns to the Vikings about Kluwe's activism."

The read the entire 29-page report for yourself, click to page five.


Vikings Investigation Report

Send your story tips to the author, Aaron Rupar. Follow him on Twitter @atrupar.

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