Updated: 01/06/2014 7:37 PM
Created: 01/06/2014 3:32 PM KSTP.com
By: Nick Tabbert
Former Minnesota Vikings punter Chris Kluwe has retained Clayton Halunen to represent him during the team's investigation of Kluwe's allegations of homophobic comments by a Vikings coach.
Halunen will co-counsel the case with the National Center for Lesbian Rights - a national advocacy organization dedicated to eliminating bias against the LGBT community.
Kluwe said he plans to "fully cooperate" with the Vikings' investigation, and said his hiring of legal counsel should not be interpreted as a signal of intent to file a lawsuit.
"I want the truth to come out from the investigation, not in litigation," Kluwe said.
In an article he published on Deadspin recently (http://deadspin.com/i-was-an-nfl-player-until-i-was-fired-by-two-cowards-an-1493208214), Kluwe alleged that Vikings special-teams coordinator Mike Priefer made derogatory remarks about gays and other members of the LGBT community both to him personally and in team meetings. The alleged remarks were made in 2012, when Kluwe was still a member of the Vikings and also when he was speaking out publicly against passage of a constitutional referendum in Minnesota to restrict marriage to heterosexual-only couples. Priefer issued a statement “strongly denying” the allegations, and the Vikings released a statement about the article.
Kluwe alleged that Priefer’s remarks were intended to humiliate him into silence. When that didn’t happen, Kluwe alleged, other members of the Vikings management team pressured him to tone down his off-the-field comments in favor of equal marriage rights for all. Finally, the team cut him from the squad prior to the start of the 2013 season. He has not played in the NFL since then.
“Chris Kluwe stands up for what he believes is right – even if it costs him personally to do so,” Halunen said.
“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 while he was a Vikings player,” Halunen added. “Ultimately it may have cost him both his job with the Vikings and his career as an NFL player, along with much emotional anguish over what he believed to be a kind of personal attack on him for his views on a vital issue of human rights.
“Even so, Chris is not bitter towards the Vikings, nor does he carry a personal vendetta against anyone associated with the team” Halunen said. “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 against the LGBT community.”
Kluwe said if his efforts to start a public discourse on bigotry and homophobia succeed in effecting permanent positive changes in people's attitudes and beliefs about LGBT people, then his experiences with the NFL and Vikings "will be worth the price."
"I can speak up because I can in my situation, knowing that others who are more vulnerable than me can't," he said. "Things are getting better in professional sports for LGBT people ... but the kind of situation I experienced is still all too common - we can do much better yet."