Kluwe: Lawsuit vs. Vikings depends on Priefer investigation outcome
With the Minnesota Vikings keeping Mike Priefer on new coach Mike Zimmer’s staff, former punter Chris Kluwe is patiently awaiting the outcome of the team’s investigation into Kluwe’s allegations of bigotry by Priefer.
Kluwe, who was released last May for what he believes was partially his public outspokenness on gay rights, accused Priefer of bigotry in January in a strongly worded letter for Deadspin. In the letter, Kluwe accused Priefer of homophobic slurs and wanted to ensure that Priefer didn’t continue to work in the NFL.
Through an independent counsel, the Vikings are currently investing Kluwe’s claims. Meanwhile, Priefer was announced on Thursday as part of Zimmer’s coaching staff, retaining his position as special teams coordinator.
Kluwe has threated a lawsuit against the team for wrongful termination if Priefer remains on staff.
"Just waiting to see what the investigation concludes with," Kluwe told FOXSportsNorth.com on Saturday. "Up until that point, it’s just waiting."
Kluwe’s laywer, Clayton Halunen, called the investigation a "charade" in comments to the St. Paul Pioneer Press, and said they are prepared to go through with a lawsuit and they have a "number of claims" include religious discrimination.
"My one word description is ‘outrageous,’" Halunen told the Pioneer Press about Priefer remaining on staff. "It’s almost unimaginable that there’s a pending investigation regarding whether or not this guy engaged in homophobic, hate-filled behavior and without even a conclusion in the findings they’ve retained this person as a coach, as a leader."
Speaking at a team event Saturday, Zimmer and general manager Rick Spielman both spoke about Priefer’s qualities as a coach and declined comment on the investigation into Priefer’s comments and behavior or Halunen’s assertions.
"We can’t go into much because the investigation is still ongoing," Spielman said. "I’ll just leave it at that."
Priefer’s work with Minnesota’s special teams has been respected and Priefer even interviewed for the Chicago Bears’ head coaching position last offseason.
Asked about keeping Priefer on his staff, Zimmer replied, "I want to try and get as many good coaches as I can get. Mike’s done a great job here. He’s a good football coach just like with all the coaches we have."
Spielman said: "Mike’s just a very good football coach. I know he’s well-respected for what he does on the field. He’s a great family man and individual off the field. I have the utmost respect for Mike Priefer."
Priefer has been with the Vikings for three seasons, the first three working with Kluwe. Kluwe is first in Minnesota history with a 44.4-yard gross punting average and second in net average with 37.2 yards per punt, while ranking second for most punts all-time in team history.
Kluwe became as known for his outspoken nature as his punting in 2012 as he became a public spokesman for gay marriage rights, as Minnesota voted down an amendment to ban same-sex marriages.
Minnesota drafted punter Jeff Locke in the fifth round of last year’s NFL Draft, which Kluwe said signaled to him he would be released. After testing out Locke in the team’s rookie minicamp after the draft, Kluwe was released in May.
Kluwe hasn’t been with an NFL team since last preseason after being released by the Oakland Raiders. He was cut after eight seasons with the Vikings and has alleged the reasons extend beyond his performance on the field.
"I just thought it was surprising due to the fact that I had done everything they asked me to do and still been performing at the same level I had always performed at," Kluwe said Saturday. "There was no mention of it beforehand. There was no anything leading up to it. It was just, all of a sudden ‘you’re no longer on the team.’
"To me it didn’t make sense. It didn’t logically add up. The reason they said they released me didn’t fit with what had been actually put down on paper."
Kluwe has been interviewed as part of the ongoing investigation. According to the Pioneer Press, Halunen said he’s been told the investigation is expected to be concluded by the end of March.
Meanwhile, Kluwe waits.
"I just know that once it’s done, that will decide what we do from there," Kluwe said.
Follow Brian Hall on Twitter