The Minnesota Vikings on Thursday denied ex-punter Chris Kluwe’s charge that he was cut from the team because of his outspoken support for same-sex marriage.
The team said it would “thoroughly review” Kluwe’s accusation that an assistant coach used violent anti-gay rhetoric in the former punter’s presence.
In a follow-up statement released Friday afternoon, the team announced that it had hired former Chief Justice of the Minnesota Supreme Court Eric Magnusson and former Justice Department trial attorney Chris Madel to carry out an independent investigation of the matter. The two are both partners at Robins, Kaplan, Miller and Ciresi, L.L.P.
Kluwe, in a first-person account published on the sports website Deadspin, claimed that he was released from the team despite quality play after speaking out in favor of same-sex marriage and making tweets against the Catholic Church following the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI.
Kluwe described special teams coach Mike Priefer as a bigot, and claimed he sabotaged his career in response to his activism. Priefer was also accused of making anti-gay statements, including that “we should round up all the gays, send them to an island, and then nuke it until it glows.”
Priefer in an email to Minnesota radio station KFAN on Thursday strongly rejected Kluwe’s attack and accused the punter of harming his family.
“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,” Priefer said. “The comments today have not only attacked my character and insulted my professionalism, but they have also impacted my family. While my career focus is to be a great professional football coach, my number one priority has always been to be a protective husband and father to my wife and children.”
In an appearance Friday morning on KFAN radio, Kluwe invited Priefer to sue him if he believed he was lying.
Statements from current Vikings players were supportive of Priefer. Vikings kicker Blair Walsh, who like Kluwe was coached directly by Priefer, strongly backed the coach in a statement to the press.
“I have had countless conversations and interactions with Coach Priefer, and I personally can attest to his integrity and character,” Walsh said. “The allegations made today are reprehensible and totally not compatible with what Mike Priefer stands for.”
Walsh also said he thought Kluwe’s release was purely football-related.
Walsh wasn’t the only Viking to defend Priefer. Fullback Jerome Felton tweeted that he has never seen any behavior like what Kluwe described.
Similarly, safety Harrison Smith described Preifer as a “class act.”
This post was edited at 4:02 PM.