Former Minnesota Vikings punter Chris Kluwe isn’t the only one upset about the three-game suspension drawn by special teams coordinator Mike Priefer for anti-gay remarks made in a conversation with Kluwe. According to a July 26 report by local NBC affiliate KARE 11, a group of state lawmakers are also asking the Vikings to deal more harshly with Priefer.
Kluwe initiated the investigation after he made claims that Priefer made anti-gay remarks and criticized him for becoming outspoken on the issue of marriage equality and LGBT rights. One of the more outrageous remarks made by Priefer involved a joke he made about rounding up gay people and “nuking them on an island.” These claims were made in connection with Kluwe’s belief that the team released him for his activism and not for his play on the field. Lawmakers feel that a stricter punishment would send a message that Priefer’s behavior is unacceptable.
Rep. Frank Hornstein of Minneapolis told KARE Saturday, “A Threat made in such a violent way, talking about ‘rounding up LGBT people and nuking them on a island.’ This is really beyond the pale of anything acceptable in civic discourse, especially from someone in a high profile position such as a Vikings coach.”
Hornstein was one of 17 Democratic lawmakers who signed a letter written by Sen. Scott Dibble. The letter was delivered to Vikings owner and chairman Zygi Wilf on Friday. It was also copied to Gov. Mark Dayton. Dibble told KARE, “This remark was outrageous when you stop and think about it. Can you imagine someone saying the same thing about any other minority group? People shouldn’t joke about genocide and get away with it.”
The lawmakers are sending a message through the letter that racism, homophobia, and discrimination in sports is “unacceptable no matter where it comes from.” Although Priefer has apologized for his remarks, Dibble also pointed out in the letter the level of punishment handed down to L.A. Clippers owner Donald Sterling by the NBA for racial remarks he made in a recording. This comparison was made to show just how light they feel the three-game suspension was.
In response, the Vikings organization said in a statement to KARE, “The Vikings retained two highly-respected and experienced lawyers to conduct a thorough and independent investigation of the claims made by Chris Kluwe. The results of their exhaustive six-month investigation were provided to a leading employment law firm for review. As a result of the findings, we have taken the appropriate actions to hold individuals accountable and to ensure we continue to have a workplace environment that respects tolerance, diversity and inclusion.”
Lawmakers also pointed out that the team is using public money to build a new stadium and wants the team to release the findings of the full investigative report because the stadium is a public investment. Hornstein said, “Their accountability to the public, I think, is even more important given the fact the state taxpayers are bankrolling, in large part, this facility.” Although the team’s focus remains on football, this is an issue that will not fade away, especially now that elected officials are involved.