Chris Kluwe considering lawsuit
MINNEAPOLIS -- Former Minnesota Vikings punter Chris Kluwe, who alleged in January that he was subjected to anti-gay remarks by special teams coordinator Mike Priefer during the 2012 season and was released by the team last May because of his support for same-sex marriage, said Friday night that the team has agreed with his lawyer to extend the deadline for a possible lawsuit so an independent investigation of his allegations can be completed.
Kluwe had said earlier Friday that he planned to file a lawsuit by May 6 -- the one-year anniversary of his release -- if the investigation wasn't completed by then, so he could comply with the Minnesota Department of Human Resources' one-year statute of limitations for filing a workplace discrimination claim.
However, he said late Friday night that the team had agreed to an extension.
Former U.S. Department of Justice trial attorney Chris Madel, one of two attorneys leading the investigation, said Friday afternoon that the review should be done within the next four weeks.
"I don't know what Mr. Kluwe's plans are, but we're going to continue to follow the facts wherever they lead," he said.
A Vikings spokesman confirmed Madel's statement that the investigation would be completed in the next several weeks and said the team would have no comment until it was finished.
Kluwe first publicized his allegations in a Deadspin.com story Jan. 2 in which he said Priefer had made anti-gay remarks throughout the 2012 season and claimed general manager Rick Spielman and former coach Leslie Frazier had asked him to stop speaking out on social issues. Kluwe's advocacy for same-sex marriage drew national attention during that season, as he helped spearhead an effort to defeat a Minnesota constitutional amendment that would have limited marriage to one man and one woman.
The punter had written an affidavit detailing his claims shortly before he was cut last May and submitted it to team player development director Les Pico. However, he did not make them public for another eight months -- at the point, Kluwe said, that he was sure he would not get another punting job in the NFL -- and the Vikings said in a Jan. 2 statement that they were "made aware of Chris Kluwe's allegations for the first time today."
The Vikings retained Madel and former Minnesota Supreme Court Chief Justice Eric Magnuson the day after Kluwe's story was published, with team president Mark Wilf pledging the organization would react "immediately and comprehensively with an independent review of these allegations."
The team said in a Jan. 2 statement that Kluwe was released strictly because of his football performance, adding that Kluwe had been asked only to be respectful in stating his views, since he was identified with the team. Kluwe has said Vikings owner Zygi Wilf told him to keep speaking out in support of same-sex marriage.
Priefer said in a Jan. 2 statement that he "vehemently denied" Kluwe's allegations, and several players, including kicker Blair Walsh, released statements in support of Priefer. However, Kluwe's lawyer, Clayton Halunen, said Jan. 25 that the punter had text messages from Walsh saying he would corroborate Kluwe's claims.
When the Vikings announced new coach Mike Zimmer's staff Feb. 6, Priefer was one of seven members of Frazier's staff to keep his job. The Vikings drafted UCLA punter Jeff Locke in the fifth round last April, and Priefer said last June he felt "very strongly" the Vikings needed a change at punter.
At that point, Priefer said, "I have a lot of respect for Chris Kluwe. I think, based on what he's done in his career, as a man and as an athlete, and for anybody that stands up for what he believes in like Chris did, I have a lot of respect for guys like that."
If Kluwe does eventually file a lawsuit claiming he was released because of his outspoken views, the interpretation of his 2012 on-field performance could be a key point. Kluwe pointed out in the Deadspin.com story that his 2012 statistics were near his career average and that his net average of 39.7 yards per punt was a career high. However, that average was only the 17th-best in the league that season, and Kluwe's 18 punts inside the 20 ranked 31st in the league. He also was due to make $1.45 million in 2013; the Vikings paid Locke a base salary of $405,000 and a signing bonus of $184,192.