Former NFL punter Kluwe planning to sue Vikings
Chris Kluwe, the former Minnesota Vikings punter, said Tuesday he will sue the team because they are refusing to release the results of an investigation into claims that his support for same-sex marriage led to his firing.
But the Vikings say they never told him they wouldn’t release the findings.
“(The) Vikings have never made or broken promises as Kluwe and his attorney Clayton Halunen have claimed,” the Vikings said in a statement on their website Tuesday morning.
“As we have consistently communicated throughout this process, the Vikings will have further comment when the investigation is entirely complete and the team has made determinations on next steps.”
Team officials have said they took Kluwe’s allegations seriously, which is why they hired former Minnesota Supreme Court Chief Justice Eric Magnuson and former U.S. Department of Justice attorney Chris Madel, both partners at Robins, Kaplan, Miller & Ciresi, to perform an independent review.
After six months, the investigative materials were reportedly turned over to the team.
“After the Vikings were given the investigative materials from Magnuson and Madel, in order to further maintain objectivity and integrity, the team engaged a nationally- prominent law firm — Littler Mendelson P.C. — to evaluate employment law matters and provide findings and recommendations to the Vikings,” according to the team’s Tuesday statement. “Those recommendations are to be provided to the team this week.”
Kluwe and Halunen held a news conference Tuesday morning to announce the lawsuit and denounce the team for reneging on what they said was a promise to make the investigation public.
Halunen said he was contacted by Vikings’ representatives on Monday and was told they do not intend to make the report available either to Kluwe or to the public.
“At this point we have no choice but to file a lawsuit against the Vikings,” Halunen said.
His first request in the legal proceedings will be for the report, he said.
Kluwe has accused Vikings’ special teams coordinator Mike Priefer of making homophobic remarks during a 2012 position meeting and other off-color religious comments after the punter became a public advocate for same-sex marriage. Kluwe has said he was cut by the team in May 2013 because of his public support for same-sex marriage.
In January, Kluwe wrote a first-person account of his allegations for the web site Deadspin, which led team officials to launch an investigation led by Magnuson and Madel.
The investigation is important, Kluwe said, because he believes it will validate his claims of a homophobic and discriminatory culture, which “is something that happens in workplaces all over the country.”
“If we just sweep this under the rug, nothing will ever change,” he said Tuesday.
Asked why the other players weren’t publicly backing him up, Kluwe said he understood they were protecting their own jobs.
“I can understand why my former teammates didn’t want to say anything or didn’t want to publicly say anything because they ran the same risk of having what happened to me happen to them,” he said.
Halunen accused the Vikings of refusing to take accountability “for their actions and for the culture within the Vikings that was exposed by Chris.”
Halunen said he isn’t sure yet when Kluwe’s lawsuit would be filed or in which jurisdiction. He did say he intends to sue for religious discrimination, sexual discrimination, defamation and for tortious or wrongful interference with Kluwe’s contract.
Kluwe said that if the investigation is released he may change his mind about the lawsuit.
His attorney said they’ve wanted to resolve this out of court all along, and said he didn’t know why the Vikings would refuse to release the report.
“I don’t understand the logic myself,” Halunen said. “This is going to come out eventually.”
Just three weeks ago, Halunen expressed optimism about the report, saying he was told it would be released in “a couple of weeks” and would be about 150 pages long.
“I’ve never seen a report with 1,600 citations, so I’m sort of interested in seeing how that will look,” Halunen said. “It was quite a thorough investigation. ... I’m optimistic that the outcome will be favorable (to Kluwe), and I do believe that the Vikings will take responsible action.”
Kluwe and Halunen are slated to meet with Vikings representatives on Thursday.