In January, former Vikings punter Chris Kluwe published an article on Deadspin suggesting that he was fired from the team for his advocacy for gay rights. Notably, Kluwe claimed that the Special Teams Coach, Mike Priefer, told him “We should round up all the gays, send them to an island, and then nuke it until it glows.”
The Vikings subsequently launched an independent investigation of the allegations. ESPN and other outlets reported that on Friday, the Vikings released a “summary of the report.” This is actually misleading. What the Vikings released was an analysis produced by the law firm representing the team on employment matters, which included some information from the actual 150-page independent report. (These are lawyers who are paid by the Vikings to limit their legal liability for any employment decisions that team makes.)
Nevertheless, the 29-page analysis reveals that investigators concluded that Preifer did, in fact, make the remark about nuking gays, just as Kluwe alleged. The Vikings announced that Priefer would be suspended for the first three games of this season and the team would donate $100,000 to an LGBT organization.
The Vikings lawyers claims that although Preifer said we should “nuke… all the gays,” he was otherwise completely respectful of LGBT people and those advocating on their behalf. The analysis insist that “[o]ther than Kluwe’s allegations, there is no support in the record that Priefer made any additional statements of this nature.” They rely on current employees of the Vikings, including front-office staff, who claim they never heard Priefer say “anything inappropriate, demeaning, or to make comments about gay individuals.”
Yesterday, Priefer apologized for his “insensitive remark,” which he never actually admitted to making in multiple interviews with investigators. At first, Priefer flatly “denied making any inappropriate statements about gay individuals or marriage equality.” Later he “acknowledged that he may have made the statement” about nuking gays but “was adamant that any comment was made in jest.”
The Vikings lawyers acknowledge that Kluwe was encouraged by Vikings management to scale back his activism in support of LGBT rights, but insist it was completely unrelated to the substance of his activism. The analysis claims that “players and management were concerned about the distraction that Kluwe’s activism was creating, as opposed to the nature and content of his activism.” Of course, it was the “nature and content of his activism” that ultimately created the “distraction.” It’s hard to image if Kluwe was speaking out to reduce childhood obesity that it would have become an issue.
Although the full investigation has not been released, the Vikings lawyers did make sure to include information that casts Kluwe in a negative light. Specifically, the analysis alleges that Kluwe made crude jokes about the Penn State rape scandal. Kluwe appeared to confirm the allegations were true on Twitter but that the jokes were pervasive throughout the entire team. No one claims Kluwe was fired for the jokes so it’s unclear what relevance they had to the investigation.
The analysis also found that Kluwe was fired from the Vikings for poor performance, rather than his LGBT activism. Kluwe disputes this and announced he would sue the team and seek the public release of the full investigation.