MINNEAPOLIS – (Jan. 6, 2014) Former Minnesota Vikings punter Chris Kluwe has retained Clayton Halunen to represent him during the team’s investigation of Kluwe’s allegations of homophobic comments by a Vikings coach. Halunen will co-counsel the case with the National Center for Lesbian Rights (www.NCLRights.org) – a national advocacy organization dedicated to eliminating bias against the LGBT community.
Kluwe reiterates his previously-stated intention to “fully cooperate” with the Vikings’ investigation, which he considers to be an honorable undertaking by the team. His hiring of legal counsel should not be read as a signal of intent to file a lawsuit, he says.
“I want the truth to come out from the investigation, not in litigation,” says Kluwe.
In an article he published on the Deadspin website recently (http://deadspin.com/i-was-an-nfl-player-until-i-was-fired-by-two-cowards-an-1493208214), Kluwe alleged that Vikings special-teams coordinator Mike Priefer made derogatory remarks about gays and other members of the LGBT community both to him personally and in team meetings. The alleged remarks were made in 2012, when Kluwe was still a member of the Vikings and also when he was speaking out publicly against passage of a constitutional referendum in Minnesota to restrict marriage to heterosexual-only couples. (Priefer issued a statement “strongly denying” the allegations.)
Kluwe alleged that Priefer’s remarks were intended to humiliate him into silence. When that didn’t happen, Kluwe alleged, other members of the Vikings management team pressured him to tone down his off-the-field comments in favor of equal marriage rights for all. Finally, the team cut him from the squad prior to the start of the 2013 season. He has not played in the NFL since then.
“Chris Kluwe stands up for what he believes is right – even if it costs him personally to do so,” says Halunen.
“It’s obvious to me – as it should be to most thinking people familiar with the situation -- that Chris paid a steep price for speaking out in favor of same-sex marriage rights in 2012 while he was a Vikings player,” Halunen adds. “Ultimately it may have cost him both his job with the Vikings and his career as an NFL player, along with much emotional anguish over what he believed to be a kind of personal attack on him for his views on a vital issue of human rights.
“Even so, Chris is not bitter towards the Vikings, nor does he carry a personal vendetta against anyone associated with the team” Halunen says. “He is grateful to the Vikings for the great career he had with the team. But he couldn’t stand by when someone with as much influence in sports as a member of the Vikings coaching staff makes dangerous and dehumanizing statements against the LGBT community.”
What Kluwe says he wants, more than anything, is “to ensure that everyone, and especially sports leaders who are role models to millions of people, respect the humanity of everyone by not belittling or denigrating people.”
For starters, all professional sporting organizations should institute a zero tolerance policy for bigotry and discrimination against members of the LGBT community, Kluwe asserts.
If his efforts to start a public discourse on bigotry and homophobia succeed in effecting permanent positive changes in people’s attitudes and beliefs about LGBT people, then his painful experiences with the Vikings and NFL “will be worth the price,” Kluwe says.
“I can speak up because I can in my situation, knowing that others who are more vulnerable than me can’t,” he says. “Things are getting better in professional sports for LGBT people,” he hastens to add. “But the kind of situation I experienced is still all too common – we can do much better yet.”