Minneapolis, MN (NNCNOW.com) --- The Minnesota Vikings have suspended special teams coach Mike Priefer for three games stemming from a complaint made by former player Chris Kluwe alleging, among other things, that Priefer made offensive and insensitive remarks during Kluwe's time with the team.
"I owe an apology to many people - the Wilf family, the Minnesota Vikings organization and fans, my family, the LGBT community, Chris Kluwe and anyone else that I offended with my insensitive remark," Priefer said in a statement. "I regret what has occurred and what I said. I am extremely sorry but I will learn from this situation and will work on educating others to create more tolerance and respect."
Priefer's suspension may be reduced to two games if agrees to attend individualized anti-harassment, diversity and sexual-orientation sensitivity training, and Minnesota will also make a $100,000 donation to LGBT rights charitable and educational organizations.
Kluwe's allegations, made in January in an article for Deadspin, also say that representatives of the Vikings discouraged Kluwe from publicly supporting marriage equality and that his activism for marriage equality was the reason for his release from the team in 2013.
Kluwe had asked for Priefer to be suspended for between four and eight games, Chris Tomasson of the St. Paul Pioneer Press reported, and that the team donate $1 million for gay and lesbian groups.
After the team's release became public, Clayton Halunen, Kluwe's lawyer, said his client intends to sue the Vikings for defamation of character and emotional distress in the amount of $10 million. It is expected that lawsuit will be filed on Monday.
The Vikings retained former Chief Justice of the Minnesota Supreme Court Eric Magnuson and former U.S. Department of Justice Trial Attorney Chris Madel to investigate the matter. A summary of their findings was released by the team on Friday evening and can be read in full below.
1) Mike Priefer’s Alleged Homophobic Comments
“There is support in the record through (Cullen) Loeffler that Priefer made the single homophobic statement to Kluwe…Loeffler said that Priefer made this statement after becoming frustrated that Loeffler and Kluwe were not focused on football during practice…There is no support in the record that Priefer made any additional statements of this nature.”
2) Attempts to Discourage Kluwe’s Marriage Equality and Equal Rights Activism
“We also did not find sufficient evidence to establish that members of the Vikings organization attempted to discourage Kluwe from engaging in marriage equality or equal rights activism…The record supports the conclusion 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. The record does not support the contention that members of management and the coaching staff were focused on discouraging Kluwe based on the nature of his activism.”
3) Vikings Management’s Knowledge of Priefer’s Comments
“Kluwe himself stated that he never reported any of Priefer’s alleged statements to management, Human Resources, or anyone else other than in discussions with Loeffler and Walsh. The investigation did reveal, however, that sometime on May 2, 2013, Kluwe discussed Priefer’s alleged statement with Les Pico, Vikings Executive Director of Player Development/Legal. According to Kluwe, he asked Loeffler to sign an affidavit stating that he had heard Priefer make homophobic statements. Loeffler then met with Pico to discuss the affidavit…According to Kluwe, it did not appear that Pico was going to tell anyone else about what was discussed in the meeting out of concern that doing so would jeopardize Loeffler’s job with the Vikings…Pico said that Kluwe was adamant that Pico keep the entire conversation confidential and not disclose any part of it to anyone in the Vikings organization. Pico recalled telling Kluwe that their conversation was confidential. Kluwe then told Pico that he knew his time with the Vikings was finished and that all he wanted to do was to compete in the NFL and not be ‘blackballed’; if he was not blackballed, then ‘there would be no issue.’ Pico said “Kluwe was adamant that he was not making a report to Pico because [Kluwe] knew he ‘was already done with the Vikings.’ Kluwe told Pico he wanted the affidavit because it would provide him ‘leverage.’ …During his interview, investigators asked Kluwe why he did not bring Priefer’s comments to the attention of others within the Vikings organization sooner. Kluwe explained that at the time, he did not know he was going to be released from the Vikings so he thought Priefer’s remarks were ‘a momentary unpleasant thing’ that would pass as they moved on to the next year.”
4) Kluwe’s Release in 2013
“The record fails does not support the claim that the Vikings released Kluwe because of his activism on behalf of same-sex marriage, but instead because of his declining punting performance in 2012 and potentially because of the distraction caused by Kluwe’s activism as opposed to the substance of such…The objective evidence, in addition to the subjective evaluation of coaches, special teams staff members and external evaluators, simply contradict Kluwe’s view of his performance in 2012. No interviewed witness agreed that Kluwe had a good year in 2012…There is also the issue of Kluwe’s age (31) and salary ($1.3 million) in 2012 and slated salary of $1.4 million in 2013. Several coaching staff members noted that Kluwe’s age, previous knee injury and leg strength showed a punter in decline. Also, the Vikings were able to sign drafted punter (Jeff) Locke for $405,000, less than one third of Kluwe’s scheduled 2013 salary…In grading Kluwe, (Angelo and Hentrich) considered criteria, including but not limited to: (1) get-off time; (2) gross punting average; (3) net punting average; (4) hang time; (5) directional punting; and (6) pooch punting…Angelo said that if he held the title of General Manager for the Minnesota Vikings for the 2012 season, he would have “in all likelihood” released Chris Kluwe as the Vikings punter.”
5) Hostile Work Environment
“We did not find any support for the contention that the Vikings lacked institutional controls with respect to its workplace environment as it relates to homophobia. To the contrary, the evidence establishes that the Wilf Family Foundation has been a strong supporter of equal rights, specifically anti-bullying, for the LGBT community. Other than the statement allegedly made by Priefer, the record is devoid of any support for the contention that the team harbored a homophobic hostile work environment.”