Chris Kluwe, the vocal former punter for the Minnesota Vikings, has retained a lawyer to represent him as the team investigates his allegations that coach Mike Priefer made homophobic comments.
In doing so, Kluwe iterated that he intends to "fully cooperate" with the team's inquiry, which he considers to be an honorable undertaking. Kluwe also added that retaining legal counsel should not be interpreted as a sign that any lawsuit will be filed.
"I want the truth to come out from the investigation, not in litigation," he clarified.
Clayton Halunen will co-counsel the case with the National Center for Lesbian Rights, a national advocacy group that is dedicated to eliminating bias against members of the LGBT community.
"Chris Kluwe stands up for what he believes is right – even if it costs him personally to do so," Halunen said.
The allegations came to light in an article Kluwe wrote on the website Deadspin, which has published several of his missives in the past. In the piece, Kluwe claimed he was ousted from his position by "two cowards and a bigot."
The article itself is a lightly edited account that Kluwe penned following the 2013 draft in April. In it, the punter who made headlines with his advocacy for marriage equality wrote that during his final season with the Minnesota Vikings, the special teams coordinator often ribbed him about his activism and ultimately berated him in front of his teammates.
Kluwe wrote that a turning point came during one such meeting in 2012 where Priefer allegedly said, "We should round up all the gays, send them to an island, and then nuke it until it glows."
"Things are getting better in professional sports for LGBT people," Kluwe said in a statement, "but the kind of situation I experienced is still all too common. We can do much better yet."
Kluwe contends that Priefer's remarks were intended to silence him, and he wrote that other team managers -- including former head coach Leslie Frazier and General Manager Rick Spielman -- also urged the outspoken player to "be quiet" and "fly under the radar."
"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 when he was a Vikings player," Halunen said. "Ultimately, it may have cost him both his job with the Vikings and his career as an NFL player."
During his final season with the Vikings, Kluwe often spoke publicly against a proposed constitutional referendum in Minnesota that would have restricted marriage to heterosexual couples, and the New York Times labeled him "the most interesting man in the NFL."
"I can speak up because I can in my situation, knowing that others who are more vulnerable than me can't," Kluwe said.
The constitutional referendum Kluwe spoke out against failed when it went before the voters. Same-sex marriage is now legal in Minnesota.
In a statement, the Vikings denied allegations that Kluwe was released because of his activism, saying instead that the release was "strictly based on his football performance." In his last year with the team, he ranked 17th among punters in the 32-team NFL network.
After the Vikings released him in 2013, Kluwe tried out for the Oakland Raiders but was ultimately cut. In his article, Kluwe stated that he believes that his minimum veteran salary and his activism likely spelled the end of his career in the NFL.
"Even so, Chris is not bitter towards the Vikings, nor does he carry a personal vendetta against anyone associated with the team," Halunen stated. "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."
In response to questions of why he chose to bring the allegations to light in the way he did, Kluwe said he hoped to ensure that Priefer would not coach in the NFL ever again. Meanwhile, Priefer has emphatically denied the allegations and released a statement saying he does not tolerate discrimination of any type.
The Vikings have responded by calling for a full investigation, saying they take the allegations seriously and plan to investigate Kluwe's claims. The team retained former Chief Justice of the Minnesota Supreme Court Eric Magnuson and former U.S. Department of Justice trial attorney Chris Madel to lead an independent investigation on Friday.