Former Minnesota Vikings punter Chris Kluwe filed a post on Deadspin Thursday, stating his belief that he was released by the team last offseason because special teams coach Mike Priefer opposed his participation in the campaign for marriage equality.
"It's my belief, based on everything that happened over the course of 2012, that I was fired by Mike Priefer, a bigot who didn't agree with the cause I was working for, and two cowards, Leslie Frazier and Rick Spielman, both of whom knew I was a good punter and would remain a good punter for the foreseeable future, as my numbers over my eight-year career had shown, but who lacked the fortitude to disagree with Mike Priefer on a touchy subject matter," Kluwe wrote.
Kluwe said the Deadspin post was a lightly-edited transcription of what he wrote down immediately after the 2013 NFL Draft last April, when the Vikings selected punter Jeff Locke in the 5th round.
"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," Kluwe wrote.
Local reports indicate Priefer is the only member of Leslie Frazier's former coaching staff with a shot at the Vikings head coaching job.
Several Minnesota Vikings on the rookie roster took to Twitter on Thursday afternoon to voice their support for the coaches, including Harrison Smith, Jeff Locke, and Jerome Felton. Vikings placekicker Blair Walsh went as far as to release his own statement independent from the team's. Both statements can be found below.
Frazier: 'Stop speaking out'
"On Sept. 8, the head coach of the Vikings, Leslie Frazier, called me into his office after our morning special-teams meeting…Once inside, Coach Frazier immediately told me that I "needed to be quiet, and stop speaking out on this stuff" (referring to my support for same-sex marriage rights)."
Support from Zygi
"On Sept. 9, before our game against the Jacksonville Jaguars, the owner of the team, Zygi Wilf, came up to me, shook my hand, and told me: "Chris, I'm proud of what you've done. Please feel free to keep speaking out. I just came from my son's best friend's wedding to his partner in New York, and it was one of the most beautiful things I've ever seen."
Priefer's turning point
"We were laughing over one of the recent articles I had written supporting same-sex marriage rights, and one of my teammates made a joking remark about me leading the Pride parade. As we sat down in our chairs, Mike Priefer, in one of the meanest voices I can ever recall hearing, said: ‘We should round up all the gays, send them to an island, and then nuke it until it glows.' The room grew intensely quiet, and none of the players said a word for the rest of the meeting. The atmosphere was decidedly tense."
The Minnesota Vikings were made aware of Chris Kluwe's allegations for the first time today. We take them very seriously and will thoroughly review this matter.
As an organization, the Vikings consistently strive to create a supportive, respectful and accepting environment for all of our players, coaches and front office personnel. We do not tolerate discrimination at any level. The team has long respected our players' and associates' individual rights, and, as Chris specifically stated, Vikings ownership supports and promotes tolerance, including on the subject of marriage equality. Because he was identified with the Vikings, Chris was asked to be respectful while expressing his opinions. Team ownership and management also repeatedly emphasized to Chris that the Vikings would not impinge on his right to express his views.
Any notion that Chris was released from our football team due to his stance on marriage equality is entirely inaccurate and inconsistent with team policy. Chris was released strictly based on his football performance.
We will have further comment at the appropriate time.
PRIEFER 'VEHEMENTLY DENIES' CLAIMS
Minnesota Vikings special teams coordinator Mike Priefer says he "vehemently denies" allegations made by former punter Chris Kluwe that Priefer made anti-gay remarks during team meetings.
Priefer issued a statement Thursday night that says he does not "tolerate discrimination of any type and am respectful of all individuals. I personally have gay family members who I love and support just as I do any family member."
VIKING PLACEKICKER BLAIR WALSH DEFENDS COACH
When it comes to being outspoken, it seems Kluwe isn't the only player who has worn purple and is willing to speak his mind. On Thursday night, current Viking placekicker Blair Walsh issued his own statement that can be read in full below.
I have been a member of the Minnesota Vikings for 2 years. I want to start off by saying I have the utmost respect for Rick Spielman, Leslie Frazier and Mike Priefer. All three are good men.
I have had countless conversations and interactions with Coach Priefer, and I personally can attest to his integrity and character. His professionalism in the workplace is exemplary, and I firmly believe that my teammates would whole-heartedly agree. The allegations made today are reprehensible and totally not compatible with what Mike Priefer stands for.
As we all know, in the NFL you must perform at the highest level and meet the performance expectations of your coaches, management, and ownership. If these expectations, based upon past performance AND future potential for excellence, are not met, your NFL career with that team, is over. I believe this was the case with Chris, and it is unfair to think that his release was anything other than football related.
In my time here at Minnesota, Rick Spielman and Leslie Frazier have exemplified true leadership. Contrary to Chris' statements, they have promoted a workplace environment that was conducive for success. At no time did I ever feel suppressed or that I could not be myself.
I firmly stand behind Rick Spielman, Leslie Frazier, and Mike Priefer.