The recent fallout in Miami is a sober reminder that the NFL locker room is not immune to drama, nor is it exempt from workplace misconduct being investigated and punished. One giant monkey on the back of the Vikings organization continues to be the investigation into the allegations made by punter Chris Kluwe against Special Teams Coordinator Mike Priefer.
There are many reasons for an individual to note the outcome of the investigation when the time comes. When you narrow the interest down to just the football ramifications, however, there are no positive outcomes likely.
If the investigators deem that Priefer, General Manager Rick Spielman, Owner Zygi Wilf, or the Vikings organization as a whole are indeed guilty of bigotry and workplace misconduct then heads could roll at Winter Park. This scenario played out (or is playing out currently) in Miami and it isn’t pretty.
This is the point in the offseason where the coaching ranks have been pretty well picked over and trying to replace a guy like Priefer, who even Kluwe admits is a very good special teams coach, would almost certainly result in a lesser on-field product. That type of scenario would certainly hinder the team’s chances at success in 2014.
The flipside of that coin is a possibility if the investigators determine there was no misconduct, or that the misconduct was insignificant in nature, and combat Kluwe’s claims. This sort of “verdict” would ensure that the drama continues, and that distractions persist, well into the future because Kluwe’s lawyer has vowed to sue the Vikings if certain actions are not taken to reprimand Priefer.
On February 6th, Kluwe’s lawyer seemed outraged that the team would announce Priefer as their Special Teams Coordinator, even though he was (and is) currently employed as there, umm, Special Teams Coordinator. At the time, some speculated that this sudden outburst signaled that Kluwe’s camp had reason to believe the outcome of the investigation was not going to go in their favor. After all, Kluwe’s lawyer described the investigation as a “sham.”
Since then, little has been revealed about which way the investigation is listing, but some of Kluwe’s statements have started to unravel just a bit.
First, Kluwe initially claimed that he would not reveal the names of his former teammates that supposedly witnessed Priefer’s bigotry and harassment first-hand. That didn’t last long, with Cullen Loeffler and Blair Walsh both being outed by Kluwe’s lawyer. He stopped just a hair shy of calling Walsh a “liar” via the media.
This is a far cry from what Kluwe pledged to me in an interview posted on January 9th.
“Some will say ‘Oh, you made it public, aren’t you risking them more now?’, which is fair,” he told me, “but I believe giving them the anonymity of an independent investigator as opposed to the team knowing who they are protects them far more safely, and this way if retaliation does occur, people will be watching.”
I requested comment from Kluwe on his former teammates’ being named publicly, but he did not respond.
In that interview, I asked him if he thought his witnesses were cowards for not speaking up on the matter, and he insisted that he did not think that at all.
“Absolutely not,” he answered. “There is a very real risk of getting blacklisted in the NFL. Just ask Kerry Rhodes.”
As it turns out, somebody actually did just ask Kerry Rhodes this month and his answer probably made Kluwe revise this particular talking point moving forwards. Rumors about his sexuality resulted in rumors of Rhodes being blacklisted by the NFL, but a recent interview with ESPN downplayed that notion.
“I don’t think I was blacklisted,” Rhodes stated. “Especially with the NFL I don’t think they would do that … to me it was a product of me wanting to do other things and not finding the right opportunity.”
Admittedly, these little tidbits have no real bearing on whether or not Mike Priefer committed any sort of crime, but they combine with statement’s from Kluwe’s lawyer to make me believe that things are not progressing the way Kluwe had hoped.
Meanwhile, Zygi Wilf went out of his way to “commend” openly gay prospect Michael Sam and ensure the public that his sexuality will have no impact on his placement upon the Vikings draft board.
The ax has yet to fall, though, and when it does all of this will be at the center of the sports news cycle for at least a day. The investigation is expected to wrap up sometime in the relatively near future and, no matter what, it will open old wounds and impact the Vikings organization from the bottom all the way to the owner’s suite.