Updates from Wednesday, Feb. 12
It's just crazy to me that people aren't making the connection of how serious this is," Kluwe's attorney, Clayton Halunen, told USA TODAY Sports on Wednesday.
"This is a person who's a leader, who's working with youth, who's leading these players, and when he talks like that, what are the people who he's leading going to start thinking?"
New Minnesota Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer announced his full coaching staff for the 2014 NFL season on Feb. 6, and included on the staff was a curious retention from the previous regime: special teams coordinator Mike Priefer.
Priefer, in his fourth season with the team, was one of quite a few retentions for Zimmer, who came over from his post as the Cincinnati Bengals defensive coordinator earlier this offseason. But his inclusion on the staff was especially surprising, considering former Vikings punter Chris Kluwe outed Priefer's at-times homophobic remarks in an article for Deadspin.
Kluwe, a staunch gay-rights advocate, claimed that Priefer took exception to his outspokenness and played a direct role in his departure. The 32-year-old punter, who did not have an NFL job in 2013 after being cut by the Oakland Raiders, also said Priefer spouted homophobic rhetoric and advocated violence against homosexuals, most notably saying, "We should round up all the gays, send them to an island, and then nuke it until it glows."
Priefer has denied all allegations, but it seems Kluwe is not done with his fight.
Clayton Halunen, Kluwe's attorney, spoke with Chris Tomasson of the Pioneer Press following the Vikings announcement and indicated his client would be seeking legal action against the franchise soon.
"My one word description is 'outrageous,'" Halunen said. "It's almost unimaginable that there's a pending investigation regarding whether or not this guy engaged in homophobic, hate-filled behavior and without even a conclusion in the findings they've retained this person as a coach, as a leader."
The Vikings have hired independent investigators to assess the veracity of Kluwe's claims. Per Master Tesfatsion of the Star Tribune, Minnesota Chief Justice Eric Magnuson and former U.S. department of justice attorney Chris Madel are expected to announce their findings in March. It's wholly possible that Minnesota is simply avoiding a wrongful termination lawsuit on Priefer's side by retaining him while the investigation is ongoing.
But Halunen seemed to indicate something far more sinister, with the Vikings actively disregarding equal rights, calling the investigation a "charade."
"It's just a matter of when we begin litigation," Halunen said. "That's the only question in my mind now. Do we immediately file suit or do we wait and see if we get the confirmation we get from their supposed investigation?"
In the Deadspin piece, Kluwe claims a majority of his mistreatment came in the 2012 season. Until that point, he and Priefer had a working relationship, but strain soon developed when Kluwe joined former NFL linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo as a vocal equal-rights activist. Most notably, Kluwe filed an expletive-laced tirade at Maryland state delegate Emmett C. Burns Jr., who had tried silencing Ayanbadejo by pressuring Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti.
Kluwe claims he was spoken to by then-Vikings head coach Leslie Frazier to stop his outspokenness and others within the organization, but declined. Soon, his relationship with Priefer deteriorated to the point he was certain that he would be cut.
Zimmer at this point has not commented specifically on Priefer's employment. In his statement announcing the hires and retentions, the 57-year-old, whose first head-coaching job comes after numerous failed interviews in the past, indicated he and general manager Rick Spielman worked together cobbling the staff:
I am very excited about the coaching staff that we put together. Rick Spielman and I spent a lot of time talking to numerous candidates to ensure that we found the right coaches for this organization. Building a team that consistently wins all starts with coaching. We have an experienced and diverse staff that will work tirelessly to get the most out of our players. This offseason will be a great chance for us to work together and prepare for the upcoming season.
As for Priefer, he remains employed. The Vikings' official website lists among his many accomplishments, helping Cordarrelle Patterson lead the NFL in kick-return average and average field position. Oh, and Priefer helped Kluwe's replacement, rookie Jeff Locke, set a team rookie record for gross punting average of 44.2 yards.
Priefer has established himself as being a very solid special teams coach, but this is likely far from the last we'll hear of his employment.
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