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Vikings, Chris Kluwe reach settlement over coach's alleged homophobic remarks

Ben Rohrbach
Shutdown Corner

The Minnesota Vikings and Chris Kluwe reached a settlement to end the former punter's pursuit of a lawsuit against the team over the alleged systemic homophobia he believes led to his release in May 2013.

Terms of the agreement were not disclosed, although the Vikings released a statement announcing "continued financial support for human rights" and a pledge to raise awareness about LGBT issues in sports. The team also installed enhanced sensitivity training and a "zero tolerance policy for discrimination and harassment based on race, religion, national origin or sexual orientation."

“I’m pleased that the issue has been resolved,” Kluwe said in the team's press release. “I intend to continue to speak out on behalf of marriage equality, and I am pleased to be a part of the impact the Vikings material charitable contributions will have on LGBT and related causes.”

Kluwe, 32, had previously pledged to sue the Vikings "in excess of $10 million" and award the damages to LGBT causes, according to the St. Paul Pioneer Press. As part of the settlement, the team will reportedly donate a confidential amount to five such charitable endeavors over the next five years.

“Everybody knows the numbers we have been talking about over the past seven months,” Kluwe's lawyer, Clayton Halunen, told Vikings beat reporter Chris Tomasson in the Pioneer Press. “It’s substantial. … Chris will receive absolutely nothing from this settlement.”

The threatened lawsuit stems from incidents described in a Jan. 2 article Kluwe wrote for Deadspin titled, "I was an NFL player until I was fired by two cowards and a bigot." Kluwe, who set seven team punting records during his seven seasons on the Vikings, said he was "confident" his 2012 outspoken advocacy in Minnesota for same-sex marriage rights led to his release following the season.

Kluwe alleged both Vikings general manager Rick Spielman and then-coach Leslie Frazier encouraged him to "stop speaking out on this stuff" and accused special teams coordinator Mike Priefer of using homophobic language around Kluwe, the worst of which included the following statement in front of teammates: "We should round up all the gays, send them to an island, and then nuke it until it glows."

The day after the Deadspin article, the Vikings announced an internal review to be conducted by former Chief Justice of the Minnesota Supreme Court Eric Magnuson and former U.S. Department of Justice trial attorney Chris Madel. Following a six-month investigation, the team refused to make the entire 150-page report public, instead issuing a 29-page synopsis that concluded Kluwe was released based solely on football performance and presented the punter in a less than flattering light.

Kluwe’s locker room behavior stood out to some interviewees and included stories about Kluwe dropping his pants in front of 20-25 business people as they were being escorted through the locker room on a tour. Interviewees also recalled Kluwe making fun of the coaches’ speeches on the white board in the locker room and leaving it there even when the press came in. Kluwe also made fun of the Vikings’ then Head Strength and Conditioning Coach Tom Kanavy, an alumnus of — and former coach at — Penn State University, concerning the Jerry Sandusky/Penn State situation. In his interview, Kanavy explained that Kluwe cut the seat out of his pants and then put them on to imitate a victim of the Penn State child-abuse scandal. According to Kanavy, Kluwe said that he was a “Penn State victim” and to “stay away” from him while his buttocks were exposed.

While the report also determined Priefer used homophobic language, resulting in the special teams coordinator's suspension for three games this coming season, Kluwe took issue on Twitter with how the synopsis portrayed the events and further threatened a lawsuit against the organization.

Tuesday's settlement appears to have appeased both sides moving forward. The judge who presided over the resolution praised both parties, calling Kluwe's support of LGBT rights "selfless."

“We appreciate Chris Kluwe’s contributions to the Minnesota Vikings as a player and a member of this organization during his eight seasons in which he established many team records as our punter, and we wish him and his family the best in the future,” said Vikings Owner/Chairman Zygi Wilf. “In regards to this matter, our focus remains on maintaining a culture of tolerance, inclusion and respect, and creating the best workplace environment for our players, coaches and staff.”

While the Raiders afforded Kluwe an opportunity to vie for a punting job during training camp last summer, he was subsequently cut and has not competed for an NFL job since.

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