Vikings Officials, Others Respond Chris Kluwe’s Allegations
Chris Kluwe, a former punter for the Minnesota Vikings, made waves Thursday after writing a scathing piece for Deadspin, claiming he was fired from the football team because of his strong support for same-sex marriage. He also called his ex-coach a bigot and had disparaging remarks for other officials -- all of who deny Kluew’s statements.
The athlete singled out Vikings special teams coach Mike Priefer, who refutes Kluwe’s claims that the two of them had issues over Kluwe’s support for gay marriage and that Priefer used anti-gay slurs around the football player, NBC’s Pro-Football Talk reports.
"I vehemently deny today’s allegations made by Chris Kluwe," Priefer said in a statement, via Paul Allen of KFAN. "I want to be clear that I do not tolerate discrimination of any type and am respectful of all individuals. I personally have gay family members who I love and support just as I do any family member. The primary reason I entered coaching was to affect people in a positive way.
"As a coach, I have always created an accepting environment for my players, including Chris, and have looked to support them both on and off the field," the statement reads. "The comments today have not only attacked my character and insulted my professionalism, but they have also impacted my family. While my career focus is to be a great professional football coach, my number one priority has always been to be a protective husband and father to my wife and children. I will continue to work hard for the Minnesota Vikings, the Wilf family and all of our loyal fans."
In the Deadspin piece, Kluwe, who spent much of 2012 advocating for equal rights for same-sex couples, wrote:
"... based on everything that happened over the course of 2012, that I was fired by Mike Priefer, a bigot who didn’t agree with the cause I was working for, and two cowards, Leslie Frazier and Rick Spielman, both of whom knew I was a good punter and would remain a good punter for the foreseeable future, as my numbers over my eight-year career had shown, but who lacked the fortitude to disagree with Mike Priefer on a touchy subject matter. (Frazier was fired on Monday, at the conclusion of a 5-10-1 season.)"
In May of last year Kluwe was cut from the Vikings. Soon after Kluwe was released from the team he tweeted: "Thank you to all the fans, my teammates, and the Wilf family for the past 8.5 years. I wouldn’t have traded it for anything."
"At the time, quite a few people asked me if I thought it was because of my recent activism for same-sex marriage rights, and I was very careful in how I answered the question," the athlete wrote in Deadspin article. "My answer, verbatim, was always, ’I honestly don’t know, because I’m not in those meetings with the coaches and administrative people.’"
Though he writes he is not 100 percent certain he was let go for being LGBT supportive, Kluwe says he is "pretty confident."
Officials from the Vikings also released a statement, responding to Kluwe’s article.
"The Minnesota Vikings were made aware of Chris Kluwe’s allegations for the first time today," the statement reads. "We take them very seriously and will thoroughly review this matter. 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," the statement continues. "Because he was identified with the Vikings, Chris was asked to be respectful while expressing his opinions. Team ownership and management also repeatedly emphasized to Chris that the Vikings would not impinge on his right to express his views.
"Any notion that Chris was released from our football team due to his stance on marriage equality is entirely inaccurate and inconsistent with team policy. Chris was released strictly based on his football performance. We will have further comment at the appropriate time."
Minnesota State Sen. Scott Dibble, who is openly gay, even commented on Kluwe’s allegations via a press release.
"In Chris Kluwe’s eight years with the Vikings, not only was he an outstanding contributor to the team on the field - setting several team records - he was also a tremendous contributor off the field, for his advocacy for freedom and dignity for all Minnesotans," Dibble says.
"His decision to publicly announce his opposition to the marriage amendment came at a critical time, when many in similar positions of leadership were afraid. His energy and humor helped give momentum to supporters of equality and helped ensure defeat of the marriage amendment.
"Kluwe’s allegations raise very serious concerns about the culture within the Minnesota Vikings organization," the statement continues. "As a business partner of the state of Minnesota, we have strong expectations that the team uphold the values of tolerance and equality that we all share. I am encouraged to some degree by the team’s statement in response, but the charges warrant a thorough investigation. If shown to be true, decisive action must be taken. I am pleased to know that team owner Zygi Wilf supports marriage equality, and I hope he will use his position as the head of this organization to foster an atmosphere that allows the Minnesota Vikings to accept and value all of its players and coaches."
Though Priefer strongly denies Kluwe’s allegations against him, it appears that Priefer had issues with Kluwe’s support for gay marriage. The Associated Press reported in December 2012 that Priefer said the athlete’s staunch support for marriage equality is "getting old."
"He’s got to focus on punting and holding," Priefer said.