- Ben Goessling, ESPN Staff Writer
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MINNEAPOLIS -- Minnesota Vikings owner Zygi Wilf released a statement on Monday afternoon supporting Missouri defensive end Michael Sam's decision to announce he is gay, calling Sam "courageous" and saying the Vikings would welcome any player they feel can help them win.
Here is Wilf's full statement:
"We commend Michael Sam for being very courageous with his openness on something of such a personal nature. His comments will have no impact on how the Vikings view Michael as a football player or as a person. If a player can help us win, we will warmly welcome him as part of the team and provide an accepting, respectful and supportive environment to help him succeed in the NFL."
The Vikings are still in the midst of an independent investigation into allegations by former punter Chris Kluwe that special teams coach Mike Priefer made homophobic remarks during the 2012 season. That investigation is expected to stretch into March. When he initially made the allegations in a Deadspin piece last month, Kluwe said Wilf approached him before the Vikings' 2012 season opener to thank him for speaking out in support of same-sex marriage, and added in an interview with ESPN.com that Wilf's wife Audrey also thanked Kluwe later in the 2012 season.
In that interview, though, Kluwe said he didn't see an opportunity to raise his concerns with Wilf during the season, since the owner lives and works in New Jersey and is only occasionally at the Vikings' facilities.
The Vikings decided last week to keep Priefer on their staff as their special teams coordinator, though they could certainly change their minds once the investigation is complete. Former Minnesota Supreme Court Chief Justice Eric Magnuson and former Department of Justice trial attorney Chris Madel will make recommendations to the team once they are done with their work.
In a statement last month after Kluwe's piece was published, the team said, "As an organization, the Vikings consistently strive to create a supportive, respectful and accepting environment for all of our players, coaches and front office personnel. We do not tolerate discrimination at any level. The team has long respected our players’ and associates’ individual rights, and, as Chris specifically stated, Vikings ownership supports and promotes tolerance, including on the subject of marriage equality."
25mJason Gibbs, Special to ESPN.com