Now that the Vikings have officially retained special-teams coordinator Mike Priefer despite the complaints made about him by former Vikings punter Chris Kluwe, Kluwe’s lawyer is rattling the lawsuit sword.
“My one word description is ‘outrageous,’” attorney Clayton Halunen told Chris Tomasson of the St. Paul Pioneer Press.
“It’s almost unimaginable that there’s a pending investigation regarding whether or not this guy engaged in homophobic, hate-filled behavior and without even a conclusion in the findings they’ve retained this person as a coach, as a leader.”
Halunen said it’s “just a matter of when” litigation commences. “That’s the only question in my mind now,” Halunen said. “Do we immediately file suit or do we wait and see if we get the confirmation we get from their supposed investigation?”
The lawyer, and presumably his client, believe that the decision to keep Priefer makes the investigation “a mere charade,” and that the team ultimately will “cover up” the situation involving Priefer allegedly making homophobic remarks to Kluwe, and involving the Vikings allegedly cutting Kluwe because of his support for gay rights.
If/when a lawsuit is filed, the first skirmish will entail whether Kluwe should be required to pursue his rights under the Collective Bargaining Agreement, which would take the controversy out of the court system. In response, Kluwe will argue that the CBA doesn’t include a clear and unmistakable waiver of his ability to sue for retaliation based on his support for gay rights, which is now a protected class under both federal law and Minnesota law. Even though Kluwe isn’t gay, he’s most likely protected against adverse job action arising from his support for gay rights.
The Vikings’ ultimate defense will be that Kluwe was a descending player and that his activities had nothing to do with the decision. The better approach could be to acknowledge that, as a player’s skills diminish, any distractions created by the player (regardless of origin) make the player subject to being replaced.
Of course, that would invite a comprehensive review of every situation in which the Vikings have kept players who have created the ultimate distraction of being arrested. While the truth may be that those players were deemed to be good enough to keep around, a jury may not react favorably to the idea that an NFL team will make excuses for accused criminals while simultaneously dumping a guy who possibly would have been good enough to keep punting if he hadn’t become such a high-profile advocate for gay rights.
Also helping the Vikings will be that the Raiders cut him, too, and that no one else signed Kluwe at any point in the 2013 season. Kluwe most likely will argue that he was essentially blackballed by the NFL after being dumped by the Vikings.