The results of the independent investigation into former NFL punter Chris Kluwe's wrongful termination allegations against the Minnesota Vikings are in … and we have no idea what they are. Because of this, Kluwe has decided to sue the Vikings.
In a Tuesday press conference, Kluwe claimed that the Vikings have received the report from investigators but are refusing to share it with him or the public, breaking a promise Kluwe claims the team made to him. Reports indicate that the findings are favorable toward Kluwe, which could be one reason the team is refusing to make the findings public.
In early January, Deadspin published an open letter from Kluwe in which he alleged the Vikings released him in May of 2013 as a direct response to his gay rights activism during the 2012 season. The following day, the Vikings announced that they had hired Former Chief Justice of the Minnesota Supreme Court Eric Magnuson and former U.S. Department of Justice Trial Attorney Chris Madel to lead an investigation into the allegations.
The Vikings released a statement on Tuesday afternoon denying the claims and stated that the report is being evaluated by the Littler Mendelson P.C law firm to provide counsel to the team:
After the Vikings were given the investigative materials from Magnuson and Madel, in order to further maintain objectivity and integrity, the team engaged a nationally-prominent law firm - Littler Mendelson P.C. - to evaluate employment law matters and provide findings and recommendations to the Vikings. Those recommendations are to be provided to the team this week.
Kluwe stated that his attorney will meet with the Vikings on Thursday, and that he will consider dropping the suit if the team releases the report to the public. Kluwe's attorney stated that the two sides were near a settlement and confirmed that one of the more prominent allegations has been corroborated by the report.
Kluwe's attorney said he knows the investigators corroborated Kluwe's claim the Mike Priefer did say the "nuke the gays" comment.— Matt Vensel (@mattvensel) July 15, 2014
On Jan. 2, 2014, Deadspin published an article written by Kluwe entitled "I was an NFL player until I was fired by a bigot and two cowards." The bulk of the article's allegations focus on Vikings special team coach Mike Priefer, who Kluwe labeled as a bigot. According to Kluwe, Priefer made disparaging remarks about gay people and consistently badgered Kluwe about his activism.
Kluwe recites a specific incident in which he claims Priefer was particularly offensive.
Near the end of November, several teammates and I were walking into a specialist meeting with Coach Priefer. We were laughing over one of the recent articles I had written supporting same-sex marriage rights, and one of my teammates made a joking remark about me leading the Pride parade. As we sat down in our chairs, Mike Priefer, in one of the meanest voices I can ever recall hearing, said: "We should round up all the gays, send them to an island, and then nuke it until it glows." The room grew intensely quiet, and none of the players said a word for the rest of the meeting.
The so-called "two cowards" of the report are general manager Rick Spielman and then-head coach Leslie Frazier (Frazier was fired in December and is currently the defensive coordinator of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers). Kluwe contends that he was brought into Frazier's office on at least two occasions during the 2013 season and was directly asked to cease his activism with the gay rights group Minnesotans for Marriage Equality, despite the fact that his involvement had been cleared by the Vikings' legal department and supported by team owner Zygi Wilf. Kluwe also says he received a text message from Spielman asking him to "fly under [the] radar."
Vikings special teams coach Mike Priefer and then-head coach Leslie Frazier in 2013
Photo credit: Harry Engels/Getty Images
Vikings cut Kluwe
Kluwe insists he was released not for his lack of punting ability -- his 2012 stats were in line with his solid career averages -- but because Priefer "didn't agree with the cause [Kluwe] was working for."
Priefer immediately denied the allegations. "I do not tolerate discrimination of any type and am respectful of all individuals," he said in a statement, adding that he has gay family members.
Kluwe rebuffed Priefer's denial while speaking with Outsports on Jan. 3.
It's the old I-have-a-black-friend-so-I'm-not-racist argument. My guess is he talked to a lawyer and the lawyer said to put it out there in strong terms. For me, I have witnesses who were there and saw it happen. It's nothing I would have said if I couldn't prove it.
The Vikings released their own statement on Jan. 2 defending Kluwe's release as a football decision.
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.
MLB Takes a Step
Was Kluwe a good punter?
The Vikings have been adamant that Kluwe was released for football reasons only. Kluwe stated in his Deadspin report that his punting average was not poor enough to warrant his firing.
In 2012, Kluwe had a gross average distance of 45 yards per punt, ranking him 25th among 40 NFL punters. That was the second highest average of his career, the highest being 45.7 the previous season.
But there's more to punting than distance, especially in this case. According to Kluwe, he was asked by Pfiefer during the 2012 season to make his kicks higher and shorter to relieve pressure on the Vikings' struggling punt return unit and "to force fair catches as much as possible." In that regard, Kluwe struggled. He had just 12 fair catches, fourth worst among players with at least 50 punts (though it could be argued that the struggling return team he was aiming to help played a role in that).
In the end, however, a punter's job is to switch field position. Kluwe had a net average of 49.7 yards per punt, putting him just below the exact midpoint of NFL punters that season.
Kluwe has had multiple tryouts with other teams since his release, but has not been signed.