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Kluwe vs Vikings (Why Everybody Here Loses)

According to multiple reports surfacing Friday evening, the Minnesota Vikings and disgruntled former punter Chris Kluwe have agreed to terms of a settlement stemming from alleged discrimination threats earlier this year. Kluwe’s lawyer, Clayton Halunen told multiple parties that “The parties intend to hold a joint press conference early next week to make public the terms of a settlement arrived at late last night.”

So where does this leave everything? While we don’t know the particular terms of the settlement we do know that a particularly unseemly portion of the Minnesota Vikings history is about to be put behind us. But who comes out on top? What exactly was accomplished here?
Image courtesy of Bruce Kluckhohn-USA TODAY Sports
On the surface, it looks like everybody loses…

Chris Kluwe
May God bless Chris Kluwe for many of the good things that he has done in this world. He’s obviously not afraid to stand up for what he believes. He’s not fearful of pushing back against “the man” when he fears that social justices are in jeopardy. Still, he continually gets ravaged on the message boards, ridiculed on the social mediums and criticized in the papers. Why?

Chris will forever be remembered as an NFL punter and a social activist. One of those roles pays the bills a little bit better, but one of them is more important for humanity. This is the line that Chris continually blurred during this ordeal, and the point at which many of his supporters jumped right off his bandwagon.

Kluwe regularly fell into this trap during radio interviews, television appearances and phone conversations. Even in his own mind I truly believe that the line began to get blurred between social activism and crying over sour grapes. The common mindset became that he was no longer acting like a social activist but a petulant little kid. I had a personal experience of this in a phone conversation when Kluwe told me…

"[I’m fighting] for whoever the next activist is going to be. They, whoever they are, need to know that if they're fired for standing up for the right thing, they'll be able to fight it and win. Otherwise, money and power win again, and I'm not a fan of that."


And then the very next sentence went like this...

"Part of what goes on in the litigation will no doubt be proving that I still possess the physical capabilities to punt in the NFL, and that I haven't been given that chance. I'd be fine if I sucked, and was done. I'm honest enough with myself to admit when I'm bad at something. But I can still punt, and at the level an NFL team requires."


Even the LGBT community started to feel jilted by Kluwe as the allegations continued. An article by OutSports.com highlights these feelings.

“The real issue at hand here - whether the Vikings are an inherently homophobic institution that fires people because they support gay rights - is being lost, replaced by public barbs and accusations meant to hurt the other party, not help gay athletes… For Kluwe's part, I'm starting to think the longer this drags out the worse he looks, and the worse the LGBT sports movement suffers.”


And please, don’t even get me started on the whole Sandusky mocking situation that Kluwe initiated in the locker room by cutting a hole in the back of his pants to pretend he was a Penn State rape victim. This action was at the very least as offensive as those of Priefer. In my eyes, if you are taking part in creating an inappropriate locker room environment in ways like this, when you go complaining to the courts about the inappropriate environment that the Vikings have, you don’t have very many legs to stand on.

Mike Priefer
For what it’s worth, you will never hear me condone the actions of special teams coordinator Mike Priefer. What he said, whether in jest or deadly serious, was inappropriate. He also shouldn’t have lied about it the first few times. Sensitivity training and a little time to think about the situation will likely do him some good.

According to many people within the organization and within the league, Mike Priefer was one of the guys who was on the fast track to becoming a head coach. He has the attitude, the work ethic and the moxy that everybody is looking for in a head coach and because of this event, that dream at the NFL level is likely gone. This was the sole objective of Kluwe from the very beginning.

“If there's one thing I hope to achieve from sharing this story, it's to make sure that Mike Priefer never holds a coaching position again in the NFL, and ideally never coaches at any level.” -Deadspin.com


Kluwe has since backed off of that stance a little bit but only after the damage had been done.

What I can say from personal experience is this: Mike Priefer is a good man. Do good men have flaws? Yes. Do good men say things that are hurtful? Yes. Do good men make mistakes? Of course. But good men learn from their mistakes, they bury their head and keep working hard to become a better people. That seems to be what Priefer is doing going forward.

The LGBT Community
Still the minority in the American public, the LGBT community lost out on an opportunity here as well. Sure there will be awareness from this, sure there will be funds from the Vikings donated towards LGBT charities, but there was an opportunity here to get behind someone and rally to make big changes in the workplace. Unfortunately, as highlighted above, the ringleader started to lose focus and the entire ordeal became meaningless. Again from the same OutSports.com article.

“At this point, it has little to do with whether the NFL is a safe place for gay athletes and has everything to do with the bad blood that has boiled over between the punter and his former team. Kluwe wants vindication for being cut, the Vikings don't want to give him an inch.”


There was an opportunity here to bring change. We look at it now as nothing more than a missed opportunity.

The Minnesota Vikings
I’m not going to stand here and say that the Vikings are victims in this situation. Could they have done something behind the scenes and handled this situation a little differently, sure. But in the discussion of how everybody loses here, the Vikings are surely in the mix.

Throughout the process of the investigation and allegations, there was some dirty laundry aired on behalf of the Vikings. Some things were minor and will be quickly forgotten, but others, particularly those that rose up the chain of command a little bit, will be remembered and likely addressed going forward.

There are much more important things at stake here, but the reputation of the team was hurt as well.

Conclusion
If these reports are true, and this entire ordeal comes to a close this week with the official announcement of a settlement deal, the very best thing we can do is to put this whole thing behind us and forget about it completely.

Keep fighting for what’s right, but don’t use this as an example. Keep striving to make institutional changes, but learn from the mistakes made here. More than anything, keep trying to become better people. Humans are inherently flawed and unfortunately the actions that stem from those flaws put us in some pretty bad situations. Let’s just try to be better.

UPDATE:
After reading through the article for himself, Chris Kluwe joined the conversation with the following tweet...

"@AjKFAN Maybe you should wait for the settlement details before writing a recap? Just a thought."


Well now my interest has been piqued! Kluwe is right on one thing, it will be interesting to see what the settlement terms are. Still, I don't see anybody coming out on top.


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31 Comments

John Bonnes
Aug 16 2014 08:38 AM

Excellent story AJ. Thanks.

 

To me, the message is this: if you're going to take on an institution with a huge fan base and more money than god, you had better expect to come out bloody on the other end, no matter what your talents and righteous cause.

 

Let's make no mistake: the victim here was Kluwe. He was the victim from the beginning and it only got worse, and I don't expect the settlement to fully recompense him for a prematurely shortened NFL career.

 

Priefer was not the victim. He was the source of the problem and not because he made one tasteless comment. It was because the only evidence that anyone has presented suggests that Priefer, due to Kluwe's activism and Priefer's views on religion and sexual orientation, could not be objective about Kluwe's performance.

 

We all saw Kluwe's performance that year. KFAN is as tied into the perceptions of the team as anyplace, and there was nearly zero sense that Kluwe's performace was substandard except for that one bad game versus Tampa Bay. There was also zero expectation that they needed to replace him at draft time and we were all surprised they used a 5th round draft pick on a punter. The primary person talking about Kluwe's decline was Priefer, and we have substantial reason to believe from his comments on the subject that he couldn't remain objective. He just couldn't like the guy that was promoting homosexuals.

 

Oh, and then Priefer lied about the one factual quote repeatedly until he was presented with irrefutable evidence that he was lying. That, all by itself, makes him lose all credibility in this mess. 

 

The Vikings are not victims either. From the beginning, their head coach and PR guy tried to throw obstacles in front of Kluwe's activism. They tolerated Priefer's behavior. They got rid of Kluwe despite a solid performance. They waved their independent study in front of the press a the beginning and then buried it into a deep hole when it embarrassed them. 

 

And the Sandusky thing? It's irrelevant. The charge wasn't that Priefer - and Kluwe and most Vikings and most of us, I suspect - told a tasteless joke. The charge was that a direct supervisor of an employee systematically discriminated against that employee due to a conflict in religion and sexual orientation and that the organization did nothing to stop it and actually supported the supervisor, even to the point of hiding their own independent investigation and giving the supervisor nothing more than a slap on the wrist.

 

It's shameful. That's why there are so many groups that lost something in this situation. But don't blame the victim for that. The blame lies squarely at the feet of Priefer and the Vikings. And I think they got off lightly. 

    • Arif Hasan likes this

This is as great a take on this story as I have read. Well done, A.J. This is not to be missed.

Fantastic response, John. Couldn't agree more.

TheLeviathan
Aug 16 2014 11:20 AM

The notion that the only reason Kluwe (an NFL player) would be cut is a non-objective, anti-gay evaluation is just so off-base it's hard to even begin.

 

That's trying REALLY hard to make a victim out of somebody.  If tomorrow the Vikings cut Jerome Felton no one would make that claim.  And yet here we are, thinking it's perfectly reasonable a player good at what he does would be cut because of scheme, but someone mediocre at it must be some kind of grand conspiracy.

 

Yowza.

SarasotaBill
Aug 16 2014 11:49 AM

NFL teams cut veterans all of the time. It comes down to value (performance / pay).

Longwell didn't complain when the Vikings drafted Walsh to replace him.

Kluwe couldn't beat a rookie free agent punter in Oakland even tough he was then making the minimum.

Obviously Priefer and Kluwe had a rocky relationship. From the outside it looks like Kluwe didn't feel he was being a distraction and Prifer didn't want the headache.

If a player has value then the team is willing to put up with the distraction - Lawrence Taylor is probably the most known example.

Again it comes down to value in the NFL.

Couldn't disagree more with John's comment that "there was nearly zero sense that Kluwe's performace was substandard except for that one bad game versus Tampa Bay." Kluwe was set to make over $1 million but was ranked in the bottom third in the major punting categories. And as documented in the Mendelson report, Kluwe's punts were low and predictable directionally. Regardless of Kluwe's outrage (a year after Priefer's comments were made) he deserved to be cut for performance alone. Players get cut all the time and as much as he likes to think otherwise, Kluwe was no different than any other veteran. And the Sandusky jokes? Kluwe was a hypocrite, too. So there were multiple reasons to cut him. He hasn't got a job since and won't...because the fact is, he's not good enough to hold an NFL job.

Speaking to Kluwe's performance, he wasn't a disaster, but he certainly was no stalwart at the position, and poor directional kicking combined with bad punt coverage made 4th down something to survive, not give the Vikings an advantage.

 

As we saw Blair Walsh come in that season and light it up at K replacing Longwell, the thought ran through my head a few times of why not do the same thing at P? Draft a cheap, good P and maybe upgrade. Nothing was wrong with Longwell, but we went from average to great at the position, so doing it again at P made sense.

 

It was the right move football-wise, and it's a shame that Kluwe blurred a good football decision with his activism. Priefer's comments were outrageous, Kluwe's Penn State actions were outrageous. Neither had anything to do with a good football decision.

goawaychris
Aug 16 2014 01:12 PM

John Bonnes: Kluwe was the victim? Gimme a break. He got cut because the Vikings found someone younger and cheaper to do his job. It happened the year before with Ryan Longwell and he didn't cry about it. If Kluwe truly cared about gay rights and changing the locker room culture he wouldn't have waited until he was out of a job to speak up.

    • TheLeviathan likes this
Pius Jefferson
Aug 16 2014 03:13 PM

I think Kluwe does care about gay rights, arguably to the point of being more important than his punting job with Minnesota. 

TheLeviathan
Aug 16 2014 03:46 PM

I think Kluwe does care about gay rights, arguably to the point of being more important than his punting job with Minnesota.


I think you may be right. Kluwe should be commended for the many good things he did for that cause.

He did, as AJ pointed out, frequently slip up and reveal how much of his personal discontent with losing an easy million dollar job was his real motivation. And who can blame him for that? But that means this cloak of moral martyrdom he's tried to wrap himself in is a cheap facade.

So while I think his cause was more important than his job, his jaded, vindictive emotions over losing his job have turned out to be even more important than his cause. That's the true shame.
    • DocBauer likes this
John Bonnes
Aug 16 2014 05:50 PM
Given a limited set of data, one can come up with multiple (actually infinite) theories to explain it. The two that are being advanced are:

1) Priefer was homophobic, and let that cloud his perception of Kluwe.
2) Kluwe was good, but not great, and just got too expensive.

I favor the 1st because:
1) there a multiple examples of Priefer making himophobic comments and they only started after Kluwes activism.
2) kluwe's performance did not noticeably slip from the previous year.
3) after trumpeting an independent investigation, the Vikings refuse to be transparent about the findings.

And it does not bug me that Kluwe thinks he was still good enough to be a NFL punter and would personally benefit. The former is critical to his argument, so it's no surprise he says it. And he's been wronged and is taking significant personal risk. Our litigation system rewards people for doing that and should to help correct wrongs.
TheLeviathan
Aug 16 2014 06:12 PM

I favor the 1st because:
1) there a multiple examples of Priefer making himophobic comments and they only started after Kluwes activism.
2) kluwe's performance did not noticeably slip from the previous year.
3) after trumpeting an independent investigation, the Vikings refuse to be transparent about the findings.
 

 

You need to help me with these:

 

1)  What substantiated comments are there other than the one "nuke" comment Kluwe badly mischaracterized?

 

2)  No, but he got older and his performance prior had already warranted multiple efforts to consider replacing him.  Meaning that his performance didn't need to slip for that consideration to be valid.  Childress considered doing it at the same performance level.  The Raiders and at least several other teams in tryouts also made this determination.  

 

Your contention that there is "zero evidence" is just plain incorrect.

 

3)  Except it isn't their fault as I keep telling you:

 

“(Tuesday), Clayton Halunen contacted a Vikings attorney to request that the two sides engage in conversation,” the Vikings wrote Wednesday in a statement. “We believe that we have comprehensively investigated Halunen’s client Chris Kluwe’s claims that were put forth in the Jan. 2, 2014, Deadspin article and have taken the appropriate action to ensure that we continue to have a workplace environment that respects tolerance, diversity, and inclusion.

 

 

So the lack of further information is because Kluwe and his camp asked to engage in talks instead and asked the Vikings not to release anything.  Maybe they would have never revealed it and your claim would be correct, but as of now all progress has been halted at Kluwe's request.  This just days after guaranteeing they would file a lawsuit.  You can keep lobbing the current status as the fault of the Vikings but that just isn't true either.

John Bonnes
Aug 16 2014 06:18 PM
Re: 3, I'm traveling & in my phone & haven't seen if you mentioned this elsewhere.

I fail to see what is stopping the Vikings from releasing the independent study. Are you saying they want to, but can't? They could have released it prior to talks and there is nothing stopping them from doing do during talks. What am I missing?
TheLeviathan
Aug 16 2014 06:21 PM

Re: 3, I'm traveling & in my phone & haven't seen if you mentioned this elsewhere.

I fail to see what is stopping the Vikings from releasing the independent study. Are you saying they want to, but can't? They could have released it prior to talks and there is nothing stopping them from doing do during talks. What am I missing?

 

Kluwe asked them not to so that they could negotiate instead.  It happened two days after he went on a national media circuit denouncing the fact they hadn't released the report and that he'd "definitely" sue on Wednesday July 23rd.

 

Instead his lawyer contacted the Vikings to halt any plans to release more information so the two sides could talk.

Given a limited set of data, one can come up with multiple (actually infinite) theories to explain it. The two that are being advanced are:

1) Priefer was homophobic, and let that cloud his perception of Kluwe.
2) Kluwe was good, but not great, and just got too expensive.

 

Honest and innocent question here, does Priefer making the "nuke the gays" comment and getting frustrated with Kluwe's actions make him "homophobic"? 

Brock Beauchamp
Aug 16 2014 09:29 PM

Honest and innocent question here, does Priefer making the "nuke the gays" comment and getting frustrated with Kluwe's actions make him "homophobic"?

Homophobic? Hard to say but it's a possibility.

A bigot? Absolutely. No reasonable person makes that comment. A normal person should be horrified to hear such a comment, even as a joke.

So it's a "pick your poison" situation IMO. Either way, Priefer looks terrible.
Bo Mitchell
Aug 17 2014 08:32 AM

I'm actually interested to see what transpires at this news conference. Will there still be some obvious acrimonious feelings from both sides or will they present some kind of peaceful front now that they have come to a settlement?

 

We know that Kluwe will be there. Will Priefer? Now THAT would be interesting.

Hard to see Kluwe as a victim here.  And hard to see that he did not do what he did for personal attention.  (However bad/improper it was what Priefer did - and it was in my personal book.)  One simple reason (and not much stated, but it is a fact) :

 

- Kluwe views himself as an "activist".

- He is a member of a Union.

- If he has workplace issues, he has one proper source of action:  Call his Union rep and the Union would make an official complaint.

 

The only course of action.

 

Unless he did the above (and the Union should be added to the "bad guys" list, but he has said nothing about it,) or he publically removed himself off the players' Union before hand, he is at fault.  Cannot be a Union member and talk about managment outside Union procedures and expect the protections the Union affords him.

 

That simple.

Brock Beauchamp
Aug 17 2014 04:19 PM

That's a fair point. Did Kluwe approach the union about this? I haven't heard anything about him going that route.

mike wants wins
Aug 17 2014 04:27 PM
Anyone in a hostile environment is a victim. Not saying his performance had no bearing, but claiming he is not a victim ignores the basic issue, there was a hostile work environment. Does anyone really doubt that, in their heart of hearts?
TheLeviathan
Aug 17 2014 06:42 PM

That's a fair point. Did Kluwe approach the union about this? I haven't heard anything about him going that route.

 

Nor have I.  

 

I do doubt how hostile the work environment was when he seemed to have no problem with the comment until over a year later and he was rejected by several other teams.  It didn't appear to bother him enough to take it to any of Preifer's superiors, including the owner that he openly admits supported his position.  

 

All of his angst and moral outrage appears to have manifested long after he was in that workplace.  He didn't even feel so threatened that he subdued his joking around - mooning people and making Sandusky jokes doesn't strike me as the actions of a victim in fear for his job.

Brock Beauchamp
Aug 18 2014 06:22 AM

All of his angst and moral outrage appears to have manifested long after he was in that workplace.  He didn't even feel so threatened that he subdued his joking around - mooning people and making Sandusky jokes doesn't strike me as the actions of a victim in fear for his job.

 

To be fair, "hostile" work environments are rarely 100% hostile, at least in my experience. Even the worst jobs I've had in my career (and there have been some real whoppers mixed in there) have moments of levity mixed in with the pure misery.

 

Not making excuses for Kluwe because I believe his Sandusky joke was also over the line but really, I don't think there should be much comparison between the two things, as Kluwe wasn't in a position of power over the brunt of his "joke", as tasteless as it was.

 

Still, it's pretty odd that so much time passed between the event and him saying something about it... Of course, that could be due to the fact that once he came out against Priefer, he had virtually no shot of returning to the NFL and he knew it. It's a difficult situation.

mike wants wins
Aug 18 2014 08:36 AM
Having spoken to many women about hostile work places, I find many of the comments here very naive. Most people are afraid to bring up anything about their work environment. Expecting anyone to act immediately, or at all, and then criticizing them when they finally do act, is classic blame the victim.
diehardtwinsfan
Aug 18 2014 09:44 AM

I have a tough time portraying Kluwe as the vicitim here.  Honestly, if he's a better than average punter, then I think the team puts up with the distractions.  While Kluwe was averaging slighly more per punt, Locke put more punts inside the 20 and and TBs than Kluwe did... and that was as a rookie.  Kluwe had seen his produciton drop each of the last few seasons, and with the distraction that certainly doesn't help.

 

With that said, I echo the author here, Kluwe was a part of the problem if there were issues in that locker room.  This really looks more like a disgruntled employee than anything else.

mike wants wins
Aug 18 2014 10:21 AM
Locke put a lower percent inside the twenty compression to touch backs. Kluwe had less chances because Walsh was booming kicks.....but none of that is relevant to the work environment. I don't get how people cannot disconnect those two facts. He could stil have his job and be in a hostile work environment. .

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