The Minnesota Vikings will suspend special teams coordinator Mike Priefer without pay for three games this season and donate $100,000 to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights groups, in response to former punter Chris Kluwe’s allegations of anti-gay slurs and taunts made by Priefer.
The Vikings released Friday a summary of the investigation by outside lawyers that was initiated in January, when Kluwe first accused Priefer and other Vikings officials of punishing him for his support of gay marriage. Kluwe was let go last year, which he argued was because of his views.
The Vikings said the move was strictly performance-based after they drafted Jeff Locke in the fifth round and Kluwe was due to make $1.45 million in the 2013 season.
The Vikings said Priefer’s ban could be reduced to two games at their discretion, provided he attends individualized anti-harassment, diversity and sexual-orientation sensitivity training.
Such education has been required for all Vikings employees, coaches and players on an annual basis for the past several years, the team said, and the improvements for the programs will be considered.
In a statement from the team, Priefer apologized to owners Mark Wilf and Zygi Wilf, the organization, the fans, his family, the LGBT community, Kluwe and “anyone else that I offended with my insensitive remark.”
Priefer added: “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.”
Priefer is a former Youngstown State assistant coach. He served on the Penguins’ staff in 1997 and ’98.
Kluwe, however, said Friday he still intends to sue the team for discrimination, against his gay-rights activism and agnostic beliefs, as well as defamation and wrongful interference of his contract. His attorney, Clayton Halunen, said the complaint will be filed in Hennepin County District Court as early as Monday.
“Here we have this company, this Minnesota company who’s getting 400 million out of taxpayers’ funds to build the stadium, and yet they are violating state law by engaging in discriminatory conduct, and that is unacceptable,” Halunen said.
Halunen met with the Vikings on Thursday. Kluwe was willing to settle for a $1 million donation to LGBT causes, a suspension of Priefer between four and eight games in accordance with NFL and team personal conduct policy, and a public release of the full report. The Vikings declined those conditions.
NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said: “We support our teams enforcing their workplace policies and commend the Wilfs for doing a thorough investigation and taking appropriate steps in response to the findings.”
The Wilf brothers, in a joint statement provided by the team, said Chris Madel and Eric Magnuson from the Minneapolis-based law firm Robins, Kaplan, Ciresi and Miller, “were in full control of the investigation at all times.” They said they’re pleased employment law consultants hired by the team “concluded that there was no wrongdoing” by the Vikings in releasing Kluwe.
“We are very disappointed with some of the findings contained within the report,” the Wilfs said. “As we have said in the past, we consistently strive to create — and believe we have — a supportive, respectful and accepting environment for our players, coaches and staff, and we strongly disassociate the club from the statement that Coach Priefer made. Coach Priefer is a good man, and we know that he deeply regrets the comment. We do not believe that this error in judgment should define him.”
In his scathing article posted Jan. 2 on the website Deadspin.com that spelled out the allegations, Kluwe said Zygi Wilf expressed support for his gay-rights advocacy.
The day after Kluwe’s story was published, the Vikings announced the hiring of Madel and Magnuson to investigate. Madel is a former Justice Department attorney, and Magnuson is a former chief justice of the Minnesota Supreme Court.
The Vikings hired Priefer in 2011. He served previously as the special teams coach in Denver and Kansas City.