Chris Kluwe to File Suit Against Vikings: Latest Details, Comments, Reaction

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Chris Kluwe to File Suit Against Vikings: Latest Details, Comments, Reaction
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Updates from Tuesday, July 29

The Vikings released a statement on their legal counsel, according to Master Tesfatsion of The Star Tribune:

We pride ourselves on the workplace environment that we have created, centered on diversity, tolerance and respect. In consideration of our standards and the great sensitivity to the issues raised by Chris Kluwe and his attorney - and their potential litigation – the Vikings have retained Roberta Kaplan and Ted Wells, two well-respected and extremely experienced partners at Paul, Weiss, as well as Minneapolis-based Joseph Anthony, founding shareholder and chief executive officer of Anthony Ostlund Baer & Louwagie P.A., to serve as the team’s counsel.” – Kevin Warren, Executive Vice President of Legal Affairs & Chief Administrative Officer.

Kaplan most recently has been recognized for successfully arguing before the United States Supreme Court on behalf of her pro bono client Edith Windsor in United States vs. Windsor, the 2013 landmark Supreme Court case in which the nation’s highest court ruled that a key provision of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) violated the U.S. Constitution by barring legally married same-sex couples from enjoying the wide-ranging benefits of marriage conferred under federal law. As a result of that case, at least 28 courts throughout the United States have since relied explicitly on Windsor and held that gay couples should be accorded equal rights under the law.

Roberta Kaplan also released a brief statement via Tesfatsion:

Tesfatsion also noted the timeline:

A source said during the investigation there was a tolling agreement that no law suit would be filed in the case for six months. That agreement is set to expire in early August, the source said, which would open the way for Kluwe to sue the Vikings.

Tesfatsion of The Star Tribune reported on the Vikings' counsel:

Updates from Wednesday, July 23

Chris Tomasson of the St. Paul Pioneer Press reported the latest on Chris Kluwe and the Vikings:

Updates from Tuesday, July 22

Chris Tomasson of TwinCities.com reports on what Chris Kluwe expects after he files his lawsuit against the Minnesota Vikings:

"(Lawyer) Clayton (Halunen) said that normally, if this goes quickly, it will be about a year before we get to trial," Kluwe told the Pioneer Press on Monday. "Then I'm sure, whatever ends up happening, there's going to be an appeal. I'm not a lawyer, but maybe it will take two, three years, four years. The Vikings have chosen to make this a long-term project." ...

... "I'm pretty sure that will end my career," said Kluwe, who averaged 44.4 yards per punt for the Vikings in eight season from 2005-12. "I doubt there will be many teams that want me on their roster with a lawsuit against another team at the same time. But this is something that I think is important."

Tomasson also noted: "Kluwe said the suit will seek 'in excess of $10 million,' but any money he might be awarded would be donated to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender causes."

Updates from Monday, July 21

Ben Goessling of ESPN reported the latest on the filing of Chris Kluwe's lawsuit against the Minnesota Vikings:

Goessling later reported more on Kluwe's issues with the Vikings:

He started a petition on Change.org, asking the Vikings to release the full 150-page report to the public. The team engaged another law firm to review the full report last week and released a 29-page summary of the investigation on Friday evening. In an interview on Saturday, however, Kluwe said the report contained inaccuracies about Priefer's conduct and called again for the Vikings to release the complete report. As of Monday afternoon, his petition had received about 900 digital signatures. 

Updates from Sunday, July 20

Chris Kluwe commented once again on his issues with the Minnesota Vikings (per Fox Twin Cities via Pro Football Talk):

“Players who get caught smoking weed or DUI get four games, and you’re telling me the guy who made a comment like ‘let’s round up all the gays put them on an island nuke it till it glows’ — he’s only going to get a slap on the wrist?” Kluwe said. ... 

“The NFL is a league where you can get redemption for killing someone, for beating your wife in an elevator, for driving drunk, for a whole variety of things but when you speak out for civil rights, that’s the one thing you cannot get redeemed for,” Kluwe added.

Updates from Friday, July 18

The Vikings released a statement regarding Chris Kluwe's allegations, their findings, special teams coordinator Mike Priefer's three-game suspension and more. You can view the full statement here. Here are the major takeaways from their findings:

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..."

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.

[...]

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...

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...

The statement confirms Priefer must serve a three-game unpaid suspension, which can drop to a two-game suspension with diversity training attendance.

Priefer's statement was included in the release:

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. 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.

Kluwe took to Twitter following the statement's release:

Pro Football Talk reports Kluwe's attorney asked the Vikings' documents not be released:

Tom Pelissero of USA Today provides an update on Kluwe's looming lawsuit against the team:

Master Terfatsion of the Star-Tribune initially reported the suspension:

Matt Vensel of the Star-Tribune provides more on the reported punishment:

Pro Football Talk reports an alleged incident occurred that could carry negative implications for Kluwe:

Mike Freeman of Bleacher Report puts the suspension into perspective:

Kluwe took to Twitter for an update on the status of his lawsuit:

 

Updates from Thursday, July 17

Matt Vensel of the Star Tribune provides the latest on Chris Kluwe's lawsuit against the Minnesota Vikings:

The Vikings and Clayton Halunen, the attorney for former Vikings punter Chris Kluwe, will continue to talk and engage in settlement discussions after the two sides met Thursday, Halunen said. ... 

Two days ago, Kluwe announced plans to file suit against the team, claiming discrimination on the grounds of human rights and religion, defamation and “tortious interference for contractual relations.” Kluwe said that he was filing the suit because the Vikings told him that they will not release the full findings of their six-month investigation into special teams coordinator Mike Priefer.

Original Text

Former Minnesota Vikings punter Chris Kluwe has decided to move forward with a lawsuit against the team for poor treatment and his eventual release. He believes coming out in favor of gay marriage led directly to those actions.

AJ Mansour of KFAN.com reports the allegations made by Kluwe are highlighted by alleged homophobic verbal attacks by special teams coach Mike Priefer. The punter originally told his story in a first-person piece posted by Deadspin.

The KFAN report included updated comments from Kluwe, which come one day after the team said the investigation into his accusations wouldn't be made public:

Minnesota Vikings fans are the real losers in this sad affair. The fans deserve to know that what I said about Priefer and the way the Vikings let me go was the truth. I was persecuted and then fired for standing up for what I believe in, all because some small-minded, bigoted people think that homophobia is okay in the NFL. It is not okay, and now it seems like we'll have to go to court to force the Vikings to admit that.

A statement from the Vikings notes the team has taken the claims seriously. They hired a group headlined by former Chief Justice of the Minnesota Supreme Court Eric Magnuson and former U.S. Department of Justice trial attorney Chris Madel to investigate.

Their findings are expected this week, as the team notes:

Magnuson, Madel and others spent nearly six months conducting an exhaustive investigation. 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.

Clearly, the two sides have different views of what was expected when the investigation concluded.

Andrew Krammer of 1500ESPN.com provided comments from a Kluwe representative, who says one of the more controversial comments reportedly made by Priefer had been confirmed during the process:

Bleacher Report's Mike Freeman notes Kluwe's side also claims the eight-year pro was targeted because of his atheist views:

Interestingly, Tom Pelissero of USA Today reports there were settlement talks between the two sides. There was talk of a $1 million payment and donations to the LGBT community, but an agreement couldn't be reached:

Despite the lack of a settlement in those talks, Kluwe's lawyer did say that they would like to come to an agreement out of court. Via Pelissero:

Michael McCann of Sports Illustrated states it would be hard for Kluwe to have legal standing in any potential case, should the suit move ahead:

Kluwe, 32, played each of his professional seasons with the Vikings after going undrafted in 2005. He finished with an average of 44.4 yards per punt.

What's going to happen next is anybody's guess, as an already touchy situation has become even more volatile. It will be interesting to see if the lawsuit gets the Vikings to change their stance regarding a public release of the report's findings.

Taking the issue to court is going to make it drag out even further. Perhaps the next step will be clear once the organization makes a decision about what to do when it receives the investigation information, but there are no guarantees at this stage.

 

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