By Chris Hoenig
The Minnesota Vikings have suspended Special Teams Coordinator Mike Priefer three games without pay for making homophobic remarks in the locker room.
Independent investigators confirmed allegations by former Viking Chris Kluwe that Priefer, whose attitude toward Kluwe reportedly changed after the punter began his outspoken LGBT advocacy, told Kluwe that “we should round up all the gays, send them to an island, and then nuke it until it glows.” Though Priefer denied making the remark, Kluwe’s account was corroborated by Vikings long snapper Cullen Loeffler.
“In this instance, coach Priefer fell short of what is expected,” Vikings owner Zygi Wilf said in a statement. “Accordingly, we have decided to suspend coach Priefer without pay for the first three games of the 2014 regular season. In addition, he will be required to satisfactorily complete specialized workplace training that will include an emphasis on the managing of diversity and sexual orientation.”
But Priefer’s suspension has conditions that could result in his return to the sidelines even sooner.
“If coach Priefer completes this training and conducts himself in accordance with our workplace policies, we will consider reducing the length of his suspension by one game,” Wilf’s statement continued.
“We will continue to hold all team members accountable and take the outlined critical steps to further educate everyone within our organization both individually and collectively. We will accept nothing less than creating a franchise that Minnesotans and Vikings fans everywhere can be proud of on and off the field.”
Kluwe, who claimed he was cut from the team because of his advocacy and has threatened a lawsuit, has said there were several more homophobic remarks made by Priefer.
“Mike Priefer also said on multiple occasions that I would wind up burning in hell with the gays, and that the only truth was Jesus Christ and the Bible. He said all this in a semi-joking tone, and I responded in kind, as I felt a yelling match with my coach over human rights would greatly diminish my chances of remaining employed,” Kluwe wrote. “I felt uncomfortable each time Mike Priefer said these things. After all, he was directly responsible for reviewing my job performance, but I hoped that after the vote concluded in Minnesota his behavior would taper off and eventually stop.”
A 29-page evaluation of the independent report—an evaluation released by a law firm retained by the Vikings—did not find any evidence of the other remarks.
In addition to the suspension, the Vikings are donating $100,000 to LGBT rights groups.
Kluwe, who said he is still considering a lawsuit to help get the full report made public, and his lawyer said they offered to settle the dispute with three nonnegotiable conditions: the public release of the full, 150-page independent report; a four- to eight-game suspension without pay for Priefer; and a $1 million donation to LGBT rights groups.