Minnesota Vikings special teams coordinator Mike Priefer denied allegations that he is a bigot who made virulently anti-gay remarks during team meetings in a brief statement on Thursday. The denial came several hours after Deadspin published a first-person story by former Vikings punter Chris Kluwe that claimed he had been cut by the team over his advocacy of same-sex marriage.
In the scathing article titled "I Was An NFL Player Until I Was Fired By Two Cowards And A Bigot," Kluwe claimed his increased advocacy for marriage equality and LGBT rights during the 2012 NFL season coincided with Priefer beginning to make homophobic comments and becoming increasingly adversarial. Kluwe was released by the Vikings in May 2013 but only just revealed in his article for Deadspin that he is "pretty confident" his activism was the reason he lost his job. Moreover, he claimed that Priefer's bigotry was ultimately the reason his views were not tolerated.
The Vikings released a statement on Thursday denying this allegation, claiming that Kluwe was released "based on his football performance." Following the team's statement, Priefer issued one of his own to a group of Vikings beat reporters.
Here is the complete text of Priefer's statement, via Chip Scoggins of the Minneapolis Star Tribune:
I vehemently deny today’s allegations made by Chris Kluwe.
I want to be clear that I do not tolerate discrimination of any type and am respectful of all individuals. I personally have gay family members who I love and support just as I do any family member.
The primary reason I entered coaching was to affect people in a positive way. As a coach, I have always created an accepting environment for my players, including Chris, and have looked to support them both on and off the field.
The comments today have not only attacked my character and insulted my professionalism, but they have also impacted my family. While my career focus is to be a great professional football coach, my number one priority has always been to be a protective husband and father to my wife and children.
I will continue to work hard for the Minnesota Vikings, the Wilf family and all of our loyal fans.
Priefer's remarks are at odds with Kluwe's portrayal of him. In one particularly damning recollection included in his article, Kluwe claimed that Priefer said "We should round up all the gays, send them to an island, and then nuke it until it glows" during a specialist meeting in November 2012.
CLICK HERE to read Chris Kluwe's full article
Priefer's response to Kluwe's article was quickly followed by a statement from Vikings kicker Blair Walsh. A teammate of Kluwe's during the 2012 season, Walsh offered his support to Priefer, former Vikings head coach Leslie Frazier and general manager Rick Spielman.
"I have had countless conversations and interactions with coach Priefer, and I personally can attest to his integrity and character," Walsh wrote in a statement emailed to Tom Pelissero of USA TODAY Sports. "His professionalism in the workplace is exemplary, and I firmly believe that my teammates would whole-heartedly agree. The allegations made today are reprehensible and totally not compatible with what Mike Priefer stands for."