Chris Kluwe, Minnesota Vikings Reach Settlement and Release Terms. Questions Remain
Image courtesy of Bruce Kluckhohn-USA TODAY SportsFor those that don't remember, former punter Chris Kluwe initially alleged the Vikings of creating a hostile workplace environment and for unlawful termination, while also alleging special teams coordinator Mike Priefer of making homophobic remarks—the most glaring of which was, "We should round up all the gays, send them to an island, and then nuke it until it glows."
Through the eight-month process, Kluwe and his lawyer, Clayton Halunen, also made claims in regards to religious discrimination, intentional infliction of emotional distress, defamation, tortious interference with contractual relations and mismanagement from the Vikings organization.
Though the specific terms haven't been released, the larger structure remains as follows:
- The Vikings will donate to five different LGBT groups over the next five years, several local. Kluwe mentioned on twitter that it was a "substantial amount." To reporter Chris Tommason of the Pioneer Press, Halunen said, "“Everybody knows the numbers we have been talking about over the past seven months. It’s substantial."
- The Vikings will implement enhanced training within the entire organization, and renew their committed to a zero tolerance policy on homophobia.
- The Vikings will be working to create a symposium to bring together sports and LBGTQ leaders in order to address this issue in sports.
- Chris Kluwe is free to talk about his experience with the Vikings, but not the allegations. He says he will write about his experiences in his memoirs.
Last month, the Vikings released a 29-page summary of the report, prepared by a different lawyer they retained, Donald Prophete. Prophete is a partner of Littler Mendelson P.C. In that summary, the report is said to have cleared the Vikings of all claims, though concludes that Mike Priefer did say the alleged statement—and no more.
Per Chris Kluwe's twitter account in regards to the report's release, "Our worry there was that there were systemic problems being covered up, but there weren't. Then it became, do I want this to be about me? (And prove the haters right) Or do we try to do a lot of good for a lot of other people. We've chosen to help those who need it, in a way that hopefully will set an example moving forward for others to follow."
Halunen said there was "nothing of substance," in the full report. Kluwe will not be receiving any money from the settlement.
The Vikings released the following statement:
“We appreciate Chris Kluwe’s contributions to the Minnesota Vikings as a player and a member of this organization during his eight seasons in which he established many team records as our punter, and we wish him and his family the best in the future/ In regards to this matter, our focus remains on maintaining a culture of tolerance, inclusion and respect, and creating the best workplace environment for our players, coaches and staff.”
This is both an expected and unexpected turn of events. The case was always more likely to settle than go to court, but the release of the full report had been a major sticking point for the Kluwe team. The Vikings were determined not to release the full report and invested quite a few resources in making sure it wouldn't happen.
Though this could easily be interpreted as a sign of worry among the Vikings about the contents of the report, it could also mean there are some professional details about the organization that, from a competitive perspective, it would be more prudent not to release. Because that second detail can be negotiated out of any released report, it seems unusual that Kluwe's lawyer argued there was nothing substantial to be released.
Also curious are the unresolved allegations regarding his blacklisting from the NFL. Kluwe further indicated at the time of the summary's release that he had further evidence in regards to religious discrimination and a management cover-up that he doesn't disavow but will not pursue concurrent with a statement regarding the report's lack of damning information.
That is to say, Chris Kluwe's other claims that were not resolved in the summary will remain unresolved—which isn't to say they are true or false. That he thought he had concrete evidence implies there is at least relevant information in the report on this issue.
In all likelihood there are a number of things in the report that are damaging to the Vikings that Kluwe's team didn't feel was necessary to pursue because of the cost of pursuing a longer protracted legal battle and possibly the additional damage the report can do to Chris Kluwe.
The summary will therefore stand despite curious discrepancies regarding the inclusion of statements from kicker Ryan Longwell (not on the team during the time discussed) and unverifiable or unusual sources, like Rick Spielman's wife. Further, the question of the chain of communication is curious—there is an inconsistency in the report in regards to what Les Pico, Executive Director of Player Development, may have told the Vikings front office in regards the Kluwe's allegations when the punter brought forth information to Pico. Details of this nature would need to be resolved in order to completely wipe the Vikings' hands free of the situation.
Chris Kluwe's implied threat that "special teams hears everything," and explicit threat to leak more damaging information seems to have fallen by the wayside, though the story about two "very well known Vikings players" being caught in a "compromising situation with an underage girl" is still out there and presumably unresolved.
Though the legal battle is over and the Vikings will very likely be an extremely positive influence in regards to the LGBT rights movement from here on out, questions remain that will likely never be answered.
UPDATE: Evidently Chris Kluwe and lawyer Clay Halunen expected an apology from Vikings executive vice president and chief administrative officer Kevin Warren for two comments: that he was a punter in decline and for releasing "out of context" statements regarding the Sandusky jokes.
Kevin Warren released this broad, non-specific "I'm sorry if" apology (reminiscent of Kluwe's apology towards those offended by the Sandusky comments) that may or may not reference the two things the Kluwe team expected an apology for:
"If there's anyone that we offended along the way while we were working on this, we were trying do the best and get to the facts and get to the truth. We just want to make sure we apologize to anyone that was really involved in this process because it was complicated and it was stressful for a lot of people involved. ... But I think at the end of the day, the results that you have seen and you've heard, that this will build positive awareness for the LGBT community.
"It's just me personally, being the executive and an attorney internally (with the Vikings). That's speaking for me, personally. ... It's really for the whole process. This has been a complicated situation, and we tried to handle it with integrity and professionalism and honesty. ... And if anybody was kind of offended along the way, within our organization or externally, it was not done without any intent or ill will whatever. We were just trying to conduct a professional investigation."
The fact that Kluwe thinks there is additional context in regards to the Sandusky jokes that are significant enough to warrant an apology by itself means that the Kluwe team thinks there's information in the report that ameliorates the defamatory nature of reporting the incident.