The press conference Chris Kluwe and his lawyer Clay Halunen elected to hold at 11:00 AM today in response to word they received that the report on allegations regarding homophobic statements special teams coordinator Mike Priefer made has concluded. There are a few key takeaways from the press conference that should be hitting ledes across the Twin Cities now. Before those takeaways, a summary:
Kluwe initially publicized the allegations that Priefer said, with hostile intent that, “We should round up all the gays, send them to an island, and then nuke it until it glows,” on December 2nd in a Deadspin piece.
He further claimed that general manager Rick Spielman and then-head coach Leslie Frazier discouraged him from speaking out on social issues and had an unproductive meeting with team player development director Les Pico about Priefer’s comments shortly before being cut in May.
Priefer has vehemently denied Kluwe’s allegations, and kicker Blair Walsh—while not denying the allegations—spoke in favor of Priefer and defended his character shortly after Kluwe’s allegations were made public.
Now a few notes from the presser:
1. Clay Halunen and Chris Kluwe will be pursuing legal action against the Vikings, largely as a means of forcing the report to be made public through the discovery process in the courts.
2. Halunen has not selected a venue or a time to pursue the case, but it looks like a lot of this may be contingent upon what happens with a meeting that he, Kluwe and the Vikings lawyers will meet on Thursday, July 17th to discuss the next steps.
3. Those steps will include discussion of a settlement. Halunen indicated that the Vikings and Kluwe were close to a settlement nearing $1,000,000 (all of which would be donated to LGBT advocacy organizations) and would make the report public, but the recent indications they received that the report would not be released have stalled that kind of settlement.
4. Kluwe and his lawyer have indicated they would reconsider a suit if the report becomes public.
5. Halunen spoke with authority to indicate that the report dispositively stated that Kluwe and his team were right and that “now we know” multiple witnesses have corroborated the specific allegation that Mike Priefer made the “nuke the gays” statement that has captured everyone’s attention.
6. Halunen indicated that the report is damning not just for Mike Priefer but the organization as a whole; according to him, there’s evidence on record (in the report) that connects Rick Spielman to the allegations and (this next part is my opinion) likely an organizational failure to resolve the problem in a legal way. This is a pretty big part of the case. As Andy Carlson from Purple For the Win points out, this has become a story about the Vikings management, not one about Kluwe.
7. Undisclosed until now are allegations of religious discrimination by Mike Priefer to Chris Kluwe about Kluwe’s agnosticism. Kluwe claimed that Priefer would often make derisive references to Kluwe’s agnosticism, sometimes joking and sometimes not.
8. The lawsuit sounds like it will be composed of several parts:
- Defamation against Chris Kluwe
- Religious discrimination
- Tortious interference with contractual relations (there’s a good summary here)
- Retaliatory termination
That’s an inclusive, non-exhaustive list.
9. It sounds like Halunen learned more about the investigation than you’d expect. He said the reasons for the delay didn’t just include getting witnesses to talk, but to align testimony and draw multiple statements from the same witnesses several times, including Mike Priefer three times, who according to Halunen spoke the “truth” the third time.
10. Kluwe claims there was a shift in behavior in how Priefer treated him after he became a public advocate for gay marriage, which if true would provide significant support for the claims of retaliatory termination and religious discrimination.
I wrote about the potential legal ramifications here. That piece outlines why the venue (federal court, state court, etc) is so important and how Halunen and Kluwe can pursue those claims.
Interestingly enough, after the press conference concluded I received word that Priefer feels confident he’ll maintain his employment.