Ex-Vikings punter: Coach made anti-gay remarks
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Former Minnesota punter Chris Kluwe says his special teams coordinator made anti-gay comments while Kluwe was with the Vikings, an allegation the coach “vehemently denies.”
In an article posted Thursday on the website Deadspin, Kluwe wrote that coach Mike Priefer made several anti-gay comments in objection to Kluwe’s outspoken opposition of an anti-gay marriage amendment in Minnesota.
Kluwe also says former Vikings coach Leslie Frazier and current general manager Rick Spielman encouraged him to tone down his rhetoric in an effort to reduce distractions to the team. At the same time, Kluwe said, Vikings owner Zygi Wilf expressed support for his championing of gay rights.
Hours later, Priefer issued a statement disputing Kluwe’s portrayal of the events.
“I want to be clear that I do not tolerate discrimination of any type and am respectful of all individuals,” Priefer said. “I personally have gay family members who I love and support just as I do any family member.”
The Vikings said in a statement that they take the allegations “very seriously and will thoroughly review this matter.”
The statement said the team has always respected its players’ individual rights and promoted tolerance.
“Because he was identified with the Vikings, Chris was asked to be respectful while expressing his opinions,” the statement said. “Team ownership and management also repeatedly emphasized to Chris that the Vikings would not impinge on his right to express his views.”
Kluwe called Priefer “a bigot” and Spielman and Frazier “two cowards” for releasing him in May after eight seasons with the Vikings.
He was due to make $1.45 million, which was more than the financially strapped Vikings wanted to spend on a punter. So they drafted Jeff Locke and parted ways with Kluwe, bringing to an end his colorful and outspoken stay in Minnesota.
“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,” the Vikings said Thursday. “Chris was released strictly based on his football performance.”
In his article, Kluwe alleged that Priefer grew more and more impatient with the various causes Kluwe supported and several times made anti-gay remarks during team meetings.
Kluwe said wanted to post his article now in hopes of discouraging the Vikings, or any other team, from employing Priefer, who is widely respected at Vikings headquarters and is viewed by some as a potential head coach one day.
Priefer was hired by the Vikings in 2011 after previously serving as the special teams coach in Denver and Kansas City.
“The primary reason I entered coaching was to affect people in a positive way,” Priefer said. “As a coach, I have always created an accepting environment for my players, including Chris, and have looked to support them both on and off the field.”
“The comments today have not only attacked my character and insulted my professionalism, but they have also impacted my family.”
Kluwe said he wanted to wait to air his grievances until after the NFL regular season so as not to provide a distraction to his friends on the team. The Vikings finished this year 5-10-1 and Frazier was fired Monday.