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From MinnCentric


Chris Kluwe, Minnesota Vikings Reach Settlement and Release Terms. Questions Remain

Chris Kluwe and the Minnesota Vikings have reached a settlement in regards to the allegations of homophobia the former punter laid at the Vikings' feet. Though it seems both sides have "won," there are some lingering questions.
Image courtesy of Bruce Kluckhohn-USA TODAY Sports
For 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.
Of note, the Vikings will not be releasing the 150-page report produced as a result of an internal investigation from former Chief Justice of the Minnesota Supreme Court Eric Magnuson and U.S. Department of Justice Trial Attorney Chris Madel. They have been notable for their work on previous investigations, including one of the Fiesta Bowl in regards to illegal reimbursements for political contributions.

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.


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14 Comments

TheLeviathan
Aug 19 2014 10:55 AM
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.

 

 

I guess I don't see this as unusual at all.  There was an independent investigation and it substantiated none of what Kluwe accused save for one tasteless joke.  And that joke was confirmed by someone who told an almost completely different version of events.  So the report is likely filled with information that similarly makes Kluwe's initial stance look like total bull flop.

 

That's why HIS lawyer called to halt the report's release, HIS lawyer tried to initiate settlement talks, and why he settled without getting any of what he went in front of every camera that would allow him to shout that he wanted.

 

I'm glad for these charities that they are getting donations and I applaud the Vikings for doing it despite what would have almost certainly been a court case they'd win with ease.  (Though they likely did it to get the clause that Kluwe needs to drop this forever)

 

Good bye Kluwe, hopefully you've learned you can be your own worst enemy.  For the good of the causes we both support, I hope you keep that in mind in future advocacy.

Any settlement that limits what Chris Kluwe can say is a WIN for the general public. I just hope that there is no undisclosed way that he personally profits from this whole thing.

 

Good riddance.

There was an independent investigation and it substantiated none of what Kluwe accused save for one tasteless joke.

This isn't quite true.  It substantiated the fact that Leslie Frazier needlessly brought up Kluwe's activism even after Kluwe had cleared it with the Vikings legal department.

 

Actually, while understandably most of the focus has been on Priefer, I think Frazier comes across as a pretty ineffectual/distracted leader in all this.  (Something I guess we knew anyway.)  A good head coach or leader doesn't call meeting with players and PR directors while saying he's trying to keep something from being a distraction to his team -- he just prevents it from being a distraction to his team.  A good leader also doesn't let his special teams coach get so visibly frustrated about meaningless stuff on the job, to the point where his long snapper and kicker try to intervene.

 

It wasn't exactly a ringing endorsement of Spielman as head of a pro football organization either, although that may have been more for silently letting Frazier "lead" aimlessly like this.

 

True, aside from Priefer, everyone was careful not to condemn Kluwe's positions, but they should have just left his advocacy alone.  That's what needlessly brought this whole situation on -- heck, given the facts as laid out in the report summary, I think any normal person would be left wondering if the regular communications from superiors about "avoiding distractions" helped lead to his/her dismissal, even if the person also understood there was a rational economic factor at play too.

TheLeviathan
Aug 19 2014 04:19 PM

True, aside from Priefer, everyone was careful not to condemn Kluwe's positions, but they should have just left his advocacy alone.  That's what needlessly brought this whole situation on -- heck, given the facts as laid out in the report summary, I think any normal person would be left wondering if the regular communications from superiors about "avoiding distractions" helped lead to his/her dismissal, even if the person also understood there was a rational economic factor at play too.

 

While it's fair to say that the report substantiated Frazier's annoyance with his punter creating distractions.....is that really grounds to call him a "bigot"?  Frankly, that kind of anti-distraction talk is common throughout all sports and many, many coaches.  There is some merit to it in team sports.  How much of a distraction Kluwe was being is probably open to interpretation.

 

I'm curious though, you blame Frazier for poor leadership for not "preventing" the distraction - how was Frazier supposed to stop it from being a distraction without Kluwe stopping his advocacy?  Or at least doing it with a less controversial tone?

 

(Not a defense of Frazier or his leadership, just not a fan of the way he's being blamed for Kluwe being an attention whore and that causing issues for teammates and coaches.  Seems to me the only way to stop that is to remove the distraction.)

An apology? For what exactly? Because of a statement, opinion really, that was a decling punter? Well, he is over 30, was cut by the Raiders, and hasn't gotten a shot with anyone else since. Soooo....is there someone who thinks he isn't a decling punter?

And an apology that in the course of an investigation Kluwe's tasteless Penn State joke was revealed? You mean the report he wanted revealed? I mean not revealed. I mean, that he and his attorney accused the Vikings of trying to surpass when they actually hadn't agreed to anything one way or the other yet? Makes me head spin.

Preifer is condemned as a bigot and homophobe after a poor joke and should be fired and never allowed to coach again. But Kluwe, he can be more tasteless, but all as a fun way to deal with tragedy, and was a blackball victim. Any more hipocracy?
    • TheLeviathan likes this
The Greatest Poster Alive
Aug 19 2014 08:12 PM

And an apology that in the course of an investigation Kluwe's tasteless Penn State joke was revealed? You mean the report he wanted revealed? I mean not revealed. I mean, that he and his attorney accused the Vikings of trying to surpass when they actually hadn't agreed to anything one way or the other yet? Makes me head spin.

Preifer is condemned as a bigot and homophobe after a poor joke and should be fired and never allowed to coach again. But Kluwe, he can be more tasteless, but all as a fun way to deal with tragedy, and was a blackball victim. Any more hipocracy?

One is a coach, in a position of power, the other a player. 

 

Is it really that hard to understand why there are different standards of behavior?  

TheLeviathan
Aug 19 2014 08:23 PM

One is a coach, in a position of power, the other a player. 

 

Is it really that hard to understand why there are different standards of behavior?  

 

I can get that.  Except the claim has been his bigoted sentiments created a hostile work environment.  Which wasn't substantiated at all.  We can argue whether bigoted jokes are acceptable from management, but that isn't how this started.

 

Kluwe's own lawyer said, upon reviewing the final report, that basically everything Kluwe started this with was a lie.  And it was only after reading the fact that he was exposed as an exaggerating blow-hard that we had a settlement.  That should be what people take away from this.

The Greatest Poster Alive
Aug 19 2014 08:29 PM

I can get that.  Except the claim has been his bigoted sentiments created a hostile work environment.  Which wasn't substantiated at all.  We can argue whether bigoted jokes are acceptable from management, but that isn't how this started.

 

Kluwe's own lawyer said, upon reviewing the final report, that basically everything Kluwe started this with was a lie.  And it was only after reading the fact that he was exposed as an exaggerating blow-hard that we had a settlement.  That should be what people take away from this.

There isn't enough released information to support either side IMO.  

 

But the answer is yes, a hostile work environment can be created by Priefer's statements regardless of what Kluwe said.  They're simply not related.  An ad-hominem attack on Kluwe does not vindicate Priefer in any way.  

TheLeviathan
Aug 19 2014 08:36 PM

There isn't enough released information to support either side IMO.  

 

But the answer is yes, a hostile work environment can be created by Priefer's statements regardless of what Kluwe said.  They're simply not related.  An ad-hominem attack on Kluwe does not vindicate Priefer in any way.  

 

The information wasn't released because...and I quote:  "we found out there was nothing there"  The independent investigators found that everything but one tasteless joke (that he badly mischaracterized by the way) was completely unsubstantiated and that investigators found no evidence to support any of those claims.

 

Like I asked Bonnes a couple days ago - Kluwe was media-whoring to every outlet he could on July 21st and then, quite suddenly, was having his lawyer call the Vikings for a settlement and all talk of "They must release the report!  They're hiding something!" died.  Why?  Well today we got the answer - the independent investigators found there was no evidence of a hostile, anti-gay environment.  Essentially undermining all of his accusations but one.

 

And while a hostile work environment COULD exist that the joke evidenced - one joke does not constitute proof.  Which even Kluwe recognized in his Deadspin article - an article now that the facts are out is basically an exaggeration filled lie-fest.

    • DocBauer likes this
Nick Nelson
Aug 20 2014 08:59 AM

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.

This is where my support for Kluwe starts to wane. This has nothing to do with anything except his ego.

I asked Kluwe why he changed his mind on suing and this was his response:

 

 

Like I said in the press conference, it was a question of "Is this about me?" Or "Is this about helping other people?" We got to a point where we could do a lot of good for a lot of people by moving forward together, or we could drag each other through the muck for a couple years and probably destroy any chance at a resolution that would benefit the LBGTQ community so I could get some personal satisfaction.

Was it an easy choice? No, and yes. No in the fact that I'm a stubborn person, and it didn't feel like true justice for me personally. I'll never play in the NFL again, and that kind of sucks. Yes in the fact that if I truly want to practice what I preach, the only option that makes sense is to take what will benefit the most people moving forward. Life isn't always easy, but I find if you're honest with yourself, it's a lot easier than it otherwise might be.
They're also apologizing for that summary, so that helps a bit.

 

TheLeviathan
Aug 20 2014 09:41 AM

With what was in that report ("nothing" according to his lawyer) - he didn't have a prayer in a lawsuit that was already dubious from the start.

 

Credit to him for figuring out he had nothing to leverage but lawyer fees and turned that into donations, but his duck was cooked, that's why he came crawling back for a settlement.

One is a coach, in a position of power, the other a player. 
 
Is it really that hard to understand why there are different standards of behavior?


Absolutely. As has been pointed out, the investigation proved that there was nothing to indicate a homophobic or hostile work environment. In fact, Preifer's "joke", substantiated and finally admitted to, has been been clarified in the report by witnesses as being just that, an isolated joke. We're not talking taste here, we're talking intent, atmosphere, and perspective of the witnesses.

Further, personally, I don't think I know a single person who hasn't made a "tasteless" joke or at least laughed at them at some point. And to very clear, I do not condem Kluwe for his. What I condem is hypocrisy.

And in both cases, coach and player, we're talking grown men here. I don't subscribe to the locker room mentality of "boys will be boys" limiting Kluwe's actions yet somehow magnifying Preifer's.

I asked Kluwe why he changed his mind on suing and this was his response:


So even still, the Vikings are the reason he's not employed in the NFL?

I'm truly amazed the power of influence the Vikings have over the rest of the league, it's owners, GM's, personnel directors and coaches. That one team could hold such sway over the entire league is truly impressive.

I guess it's a good thing for Michael Vick that he didn't play for the Vikings. He'd either still be in jail or forced out of the country!

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