Thursday, July 30, 2015

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[NOTE FROM ADAM:  Brent Butler approached me with some questions regarding the media coverage of the Vikings linebacker spot and the lack of respect shown to Audie Cole.  I thought his email to me was coherent enough, and on a topic worthy of discussion, so I encouraged him to reformat his email into an article and send it my way.  This is the result.  Enjoy!]

By Brent Butler

Why isn’t Audie Cole a leading candidate for one of the three starting linebacker spots by the media?

I know he’s been mentioned as a competing candidate, but I don’t hear anyone saying he’s a leading candidate. Regardless of all the chatter around the Vikings linebacker competition; Chad Greenway, Anthony Barr and Audie Cole are the leading candidates for  the three starting spots coming into training camp this year. Few people question Greenway as a starter, and most people think Barr will start, but no one is talking about Audie Cole as a leading candidate in the media and I don’t know why.

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Alright, alright, alright… you came here to read about something other than Chris Kluwe and were majorly disappointed by what you found on our front page? I understand, I do.

Please let me redirect your attention to a number of our fine articles from all of our fine writers (and me) from the last week or so that don’t involve the end of humanity as we know it:

TRANSITION TO THE OUTDOORS – Brent

WOMEN IN SPORTS MEDIA – Lindsey

VIKINGS GOING FROM WORST TO FIRST – Carl

PROFILE OF ROOKIE ANTONE EXUM – Darren

RANKING MATT CASSEL AS A STARTER – Arif

EPISODE ONE OF “VT TALKERS” – Brett

Okay, I lied, I couldn’t find anything good at all written by me lately. I will say, though, that we are incredibly close to meeting our goal when it comes to our “Mission 2014″ fundraiser hoping to come together as a community and make a difference where one is needed.  If you have no idea what I’m talking about then please CLICK HERE and give it a read.

In case you didn’t notice, the Minnesota Vikings and ex-punter Chris Kluwe are engaged in an ugly public relations battle that will soon evolve to an even uglier legal battle. Kluwe threw the first punch with his hefty accusations published at Deadspin back in January.

It took a while, but the Vikings organization has circled the wagons, and now thrown a few jabs back at Kluwe. Their summary of the investigation findings was released last night and then Chris Kluwe proceeded to, quite frankly, punch himself in the face on Twitter a few times last night.

The Vikings still contend that Chris Kluwe was not fired from his job for his activism, but rather released from his contract for football reasons, and I believe them (always have thought that, if you’ve been here for a while). Special teams coordinator Mike Priefer has also finally stopped lying and apologized for making inappropriate comments and the Vikings are reprimanding him with a suspension. Rick Spielman and Leslie Frazier seem to be non-issues, essentially, despite the title of Kluwe’s initial article.

In many cases like this there are never any clear winners, just losers, outside of the legal team being paid to play prevent defense within the confines of the judicial system. This is a high profile case, however, so you can probably put “media outlets” right up there with the lawyers when it comes to people that stand to benefit from this mess.

Now comes the mud, however.

In an obvious attempt to attack Kluwe’s character the Vikings have included in their release a tidbit that turned into a social media bombshell. They say that Kluwe made light of the Penn State molestation situation in a lewd and offensive manner, and he admits that he did.

He also attempted to threaten the organization by claiming to have knowledge of a situation involving two well-known Vikings players being caught in a compromising situation with an underage girl. That admission backfired a bit, as people immediately wondered why Kluwe has again sat on his hands and done nothing with this information about his former employers.

This morning, before leaving for a long Saturday (yes, Saturday, dang it) of work at my real job, I read a number of articles from fine writers questioning Kluwe’s intent.  Some were more harsh than others.

One of those articles came from Gregg Doyel at CBS Sports, and this evening Kluwe felt compelled to respond to Mr. Doyel, who called Kluwe out as being disgusting and hypocritical. You can read the whole thing here, but I want to focus on something Kluwe has said a few times over the past 24 hours, and said it again in his response to Doyel.

If it comes to speaking truth to power, standing up to blind fanaticism, that’s what I’m going to do.

This is the type of well-planned rhetoric that I have grown accustomed to in all things Kluwe. The guy is a wordsmith and a talented one. Still, I’m calling bulls*** on this one, and his other versions of the same sentiment, and feel like it is an attack on myself and many other Vikings fans.

I used to think this case that Kluwe had against Priefer and the Vikings was bigger than football. That is what was annoying about it as a hack football blogger, to be honest, because it wasn’t an X’s and O’s type of storyline, but it was important enough that it couldn’t be ignored. Regardless of how your politics are oriented, social justice is something we can’t simply ignore in favor of a sporting event or else we all lose, plain and simple.

Still, Kluwe’s decision to bring this back down to the level of football fandom and attack those that have “sided” with his “opponents” smells of desperation and is an insult to a fanbase that once showed him plenty of love.

Having covered the Vikings for quite a while now I can tell you that a majority of fans do not blindly support the Vikings organization. I’ve seen them criticize the organization for plenty, and I’m not just talking about on the field productivity.

I’ve seen fans call for the Wilf family to be run out of town for their demand for public funds. I’ve seen fans point to the arrests up and down rosters of Vikings past and demand change. I’ve seen fans upset over the release of a player on Christmas, over the team’s support of a player that allegedly choked his girlfriend, and over the lewd conduct of the players on that boat.

I’ve seen fans declare their fandom to be finished over how the organization treated specific players, with Antoine Winfield being the most recent example that comes to mind.

Chris Kluwe needs to understand that fans, myself included, are individuals that are capable of deciding things for ourselves. Many, albeit not all, are even intelligent enough to make coherent and intelligent decisions (or assumptions, as he might call them) about a subject being presented. We are even able to put our excitement over Vikings football to the side in order to form our opinions, whether he believes it or not.

I’m not saying Kluwe isn’t on the other end of some unfair and uninformed venom, especially considering he chooses to be plugged into social media as a public figure, I’m sure he sees more than his fair share of it. Conversely, he and the equality movement also have blind followers that will defend and attack on cue without considering the opposing viewpoint.

However, some of his own assumptions are way off base, starting with the one where he thinks any Vikings fan that disagrees with his approach to these issues are simply blind followers of some colors on a jersey.

At the other end of a disagreement is not always a blind follower of a football team, or a religion, or a political platform. At the other end of those arguments are often someone who just flat out thinks he is wrong, or thinks he is partially wrong, or is maybe even still trying to sort this mess out in their mind and has their doubts.

What Mike Priefer did was wrong and that has been admitted. I’ve never agreed with Kluwe’s reasoning for why he thinks he was released, but I’ve never questioned his integrity, until last night’s Twitter rant. I still don’t think Kluwe was wronged when he was released, but now I’m wondering about his character as a person willing to harass a coach about their affiliation to an organization facing the worst kind of scandal and also his willingness to sit idle while the Vikings allegedly sweep their own scandal under the rug.

Mike Priefer needs to be accountable for what he did. Now, however, Chris Kluwe has some explaining to do. According to Kluwe’s Twitter account, we will have to wait until he’s in court to get that explanation, because that way it will be “more fun.”

Call it blind faith in a football team if you want to be that ignorant about it, but I’m starting to have some serious doubts about the punter who thinks he can do no wrong and his willingness to belittle the rest of us.

Out of fairness to Kluwe, I offered him a chance to respond to this article before I posted it, and here is what he had to say:

So you know, that reference was to Penn State, not to people who support the Vikings. That’s your assumption to make, not what I stated. My issue is with people who blindly support something no matter what evidence comes out (i.e. Penn State), and something you may want to consider is that the Vikings released a version of the report they carefully combed for what they wanted to present, not the entire thing. If you’re truly for informed conversation, the Vikings releasing the full report will allow us to have that. What they currently put out? Nothing more than the opening salvo from a company getting ready for a protracted legal battle.
Ask yourself this. In a 29 page summary of a 150 page report with 1600 pages of footnotes and sources, why were only 3 pages devoted to the actual subject of the report, and 26 devoted to the person who raised the complaint.
Just something to think about.

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Shortly after Chris Kluwe indicated on Twitter that he and his lawyer, Clay Halunen, intended to pursue a lawsuit in court come Monday, the Vikings responded full force. First, the Vikings have released a conclusion of the report at kluweinvestigation.com, which you can download here.

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UPDATE: It’s extremely important to note that that report is not written by Chris Madel or any of the other investigators at Robins, Kaplan, Miller & Ciresi LLP. In January, the Vikings hired RKMC and Chris Madel to conduct an independent investigation. Some time in the past week, they hired Littler Mendelson to handle the legal matters surrounding the release of this report and potentially any lawsuits the Vikings would be subject to. Littler Mendelson (specifically, it seems, Donald S. Prophete of Littler Mendelson) wrote the memo, which is drawn upon the report.

Again, Littler Mendelson is being paid to protect the Vikings, which means the 29-page document everyone is working off of is written in a particular way to make the Vikings look as good as possible, which means there is a very good chance of deliberate selectiveness in choosing what facts to report from the investigation. They are also free to insert their own facts at will.

If you’re reading the report, take care to note which conclusions or arguments are preceded by attribution to the investigation (usually referred to “RKMC” or the “Investigators”) and which arguments or conclusions are presented as facts without attribution to who discovered them. Generally, if a player was “interviewed to have said” or “reported that,” it is also a reference to the investigation.

For example, it is curious that the report did not seemingly investigate Kluwe’s claims of altered performance grades, religious discrimination or what Rick Spielman did upon learning from Les Pico that Mike Priefer made non-specific “derogatory remarks”. It would also explain the inclusion of weirdly irrelevant data (like some of the specious use of punting statistics and the section about how much Wilf support the LGBT rights movement).

Though the Vikings have been very forward about taking shots at Kluwe for litigating in the press, the fact that they’re producing a scrubbed memo that is as favorable as possible to them but also excoriates Kluwe means they are now “guilty” of the same thing, but that doesn’t mean the Vikings are any more in the wrong. Simply that in attempting to control the message, they are trying to make sure—just like Kluwe—that they have a better media presence (and that Kluwe has a worse one) than otherwise would have happened.

In the comments below, commenter XLevity points out that deliberate misrepresentation of the findings would violate the American Bar Association’s code of ethics, which is true. That is also largely irrelevant, because a summary of the findings written by Littler Mendelson designed to protect the Vikings does not have to violate the ABA’s code of ethics in order to be misleading; there is a difference between selectively providing relevant information in order to construct a one-sided case and deliberately misrepresenting the investigation’s findings.

Nowhere in the document should you suspect Littler Mendelson of lying, but it is still important to keep track of what is attributed to the investigation and what facts are proffered at will—a conversation Spielman had with his wife, for instance, may be in the report and in the memo Littler Mendelson wrote, but the report may have dismissed the importance of that conversation, while the memo may not have mentioned how important that conversation was to their findings.

The post below has been changed to reflect that this is not the investigation by RKMC, but a memo written by lawyers representing the Vikings.

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The memo, which has been sanitized by the Vikings according to Kluwe, contains a number of findings that are not favorable to Kluwe, other than the claim that Priefer made the alleged comment. There’s a 150-page executive summary of the report that has not been released.

In the memo, it’s reported that Madel and other investigators found that Priefer did in fact make the statements Kluwe alleges him to have made, but there are conflicting reports about how it was taken—Loeffler reportedly claims that the statement was “laughed off” at the time. Regardless, a statement by itself like this may not be enough grounds for a lawsuit of any sort. The rest of the memo as the Vikings have released it is not necessarily friendly to Kluwe. As a result, Priefer released the following apology:

I owe an apology to many people – the Wilf family, the Minnesota Vikings organization and fans, my family, the LGBT community, Chris Kluwe and anyone else that I offended with my insensitive remark. 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.  – Mike Priefer

Mike Priefer will be suspended three games, but upon completion of appropriate sensitivity training can have that reduced by one (so he can reduce his suspension to a minimum of two games).

UPDATE: Adam Schefter reports that, in addition to his three-game suspension, Priefer will be fined.

 

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UPDATE 3: The Vikings will suspend Priefer for three games and donate to LGBT causes-

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UPDATE4: Welp

I’ve told you everything you need to know in the headline. But I’ll provide additional context, too. First, Kluwe’s tweets:

 

So, there you go. This very probably means that the Vikings have not agreed to make the report public, regardless of what happened in the talks Kluwe’s team had with the Vikings’ legal team. It also means that making the report (or a significant part of the report) is a critical sticking point in any settlement the Vikings could have with Kluwe and his lawyer, Clayton Halunen.

UPDATE: More tweets, this time from Chris Tomasson—who evidently CAN be a member of the media that contacts Kluwe regularly:

Wow. Quite a bit. This confirms that releasing the report is a significant part of any settlement, though the Vikings choosing not to agree to donating money means that they probably means that the Vikings weren’t willing to settle at all.

 

 

 

This is a tacit admission of some level of mistake by Mike Priefer, but the Kluwe camp don’t feel like that’s appropriate recompense for that. The “intentional infliction of emotional distress” is a new claim. More from Kluwe:

UPDATE2: Looks like we may not get the report.

Context and analysis below:

 

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