The Minnesota Vikings issued a statement yesterday denying former punter Chris Kluwe’s claim that the team fired him for being pro-gay.
The Vikings added that they are currently investigating Kluwe’s allegations that they have already concluded aren’t true. Not a very auspicious beginning.
Kluwe claims that several Vikings coaches were not pleased about his outspoken comments in favor of gay rights, and that one coach in particular would make homophobic comments, including suggesting that gays should be rounded up and murdered.
Kluwe did indicate, however, that team owner Zygi Wilf was supportive of his pro-gay commentary. Nonetheless, Kluwe says he was let go as a result of those comments.
From my earlier reporting:
“Coach Frazier immediately told me that I ‘needed to be quiet, and stop speaking out on this stuff‘,” referring to Kluwe’s gay rights advocacy. Kluwe says he told Coach Frazier that he felt speaking out was the right thing to do, and Coach Frazier “reiterated his fervent desire for me to cease speaking on the subject, stating that ‘a wise coach once told me there are two things you don’t talk about in the NFL, politics and religion.’”
Kluwe also alleges that Vikings special-teams coordinator, Coach Mike Priefer, was particularly homophobic, and would call gays “disgusting,” and talk about them “burning in hell.”
“Throughout the months of September, October, and November, Minnesota Vikings special-teams coordinator Mike Priefer would use homophobic language in my presence,” Kluwe writes. “He would ask me if I had written any letters defending “the gays” recently and denounce as disgusting the idea that two men would kiss, and he would constantly belittle or demean any idea of acceptance or tolerance.”
Possibly the worst allegation is that Priefer allegedly said that gays should be rounded up, put on an island, and nuked.
“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,’” Kluwe says. ”The room grew intensely quiet, and none of the players said a word for the rest of the meeting. The atmosphere was decidedly tense. I had never had an interaction that hostile with any of my teammates on this issue—some didn’t agree with me, but our conversations were always civil and respectful. Afterward, several told me that what Mike Priefer had said was ‘messed up.’ After this point, Mike Priefer began saying less and less to me, and our interactions were stilted.”
Here’s the Vikings’ statement denying the allegations they have yet to investigate:
The Minnesota Vikings were made aware of Chris Kluwe’s allegations for the first time today. 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. 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.
Priefer, for his part, issued a statement as well:
“I vehemently deny today’s allegations made by Chris Kluwe. 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 comments today have not only attacked my character and insulted my professionalism, but they have also impacted my family.”
Regardless of whether Kluwe was let go for playing a poor game of football or not, his allegations go far beyond that. Kluwe alleges, with an awful lot of detail, that the former chief coach, and a current coach, tried to stifle his pro-gay speech. And what’s more, Kluwe alleges that Coach Priefer, who is still on staff, is a raging homophobe who suggested that gays be exterminated en masse, Holocaust-style. If, as Kluwe alleges, these comments were made in front of other teammates, then it shouldn’t be terribly difficult to get at least one teammate to confirm that.
Of course, the larger question is, if the comments are confirmed, who among the Vikings coaches, and higher, knew of the comments, and what was done about them if anything?