- Ben Goessling, ESPN Staff Writer
- 0 Shares
MINNEAPOLIS -- The attorney for former Minnesota Vikings punter Chris Kluwe said his client first approached the team last May about special teams coordinator Mike Priefer's alleged homophobic comments, and that Kluwe has text messages from kicker Blair Walsh corroborating those allegations.
Kluwe, who was released by the Vikings last May, published a piece on Jan. 2 that said he believed the Vikings cut him because of his support of and activism for same-sex marriage. The Vikings responded with a statement that day saying they "were made aware of Chris Kluwe's allegations for the first time today," and announced on Jan. 3 they had retained former Minnesota Supreme Court Chief Justice Eric Magnuson and former U.S. Department of Justice trial attorney Chris Madel to conduct an internal investigation of the case.
On Saturday, however, Kluwe's attorney Clayton Halunen said Kluwe approached Vikings player development director Les Pico about his allegations before he was cut on May 6. Kluwe wrote an affidavit in the Vikings' players lounge at that time, Halunen said, and asked long snapper Cullen Loeffler to sign it. Loeffler refused, Halunen said, and Halunen said Kluwe was unable to contact Walsh about signing an affidavit before Kluwe was cut.
Halunen said Kluwe asked Walsh in a subsequent text message if he would support Kluwe's decision to go public with his claims and corroborate that Walsh was present to hear Priefer's alleged remarks.
According to Halunen, Walsh told Kluwe at the time that he would.
Walsh issued a statement on Jan. 2 that supported Priefer, calling Kluwe's allegations "reprehensible" and adding he believed Kluwe was cut only because of his football performance, not because of his views. However, Walsh's statement did not say whether he was present to hear Priefer make the comments Kluwe alleged.
"That's not acceptable to us," Halunen said on Saturday. "If he's going to lie, there has to be accountability. If [players] choose to protect their own self-interests over telling the truth, we'll have no choice but to litigate the case in a court of law. They'll have to choose whether they want to perjure themselves and risk going to jail. That's the only thing we have to force anyone to talk. Every allegation is 100 percent true."
Pico did not respond to a request for comment on Saturday, and while a Vikings spokesperson said the team would withhold comment during the investigation, owners Zygi and Mark Wilf did release a statement saying "Vikings ownership was entirely unaware of the allegations prior to the Deadspin article," and adding Magnuson and Madel's investigation has "already included interviews with nearly two dozen current and former Vikings employees."
Kluwe met with investigators for nearly five hours on Friday, Halunen said, naming Walsh and Loeffler as witnesses to Priefer's alleged remarks in a specialists' meeting, during which, as Kluwe claims, Priefer said, "We should round up all the gays, send them to an island and nuke it until it glows." Kluwe provided investigators "substantive evidence" to support his allegations, Halunen said, and told investigators he would be willing to submit to a polygraph test.
However, Halunen said he doesn't expect Walsh and Loeffler to cooperate with the investigation, and added if the results of the Vikings' investigation were not acceptable to Kluwe, the former punter's attorney would file a lawsuit immediately after the results were made public.
Halunen said the Vikings' investigation is expected to take another month, and it remains to be seen whether new coach Mike Zimmer will keep Priefer on his coaching staff, either before or after the investigation is complete. Zimmer so far has declined to confirm reports of any assistant coaches the Vikings have hired, saying the team would release the names of the entire coaching staff at once.
If the Vikings announced they were keeping Priefer before the investigation is complete, Halunen said "that would be very irresponsible."
"They told us they wanted to get to the truth," Halunen said. "It would be very telling if they made a decision they wanted to keep him [before the end of the investigation]."
Madel did not return two messages seeking comment.
10hEric D. Williams
1dSharon Katz & Hank Gargiulo