Bernard Berrian (Bruce Kluckhohn/US Presswire)
Bernard Berrian said “he hopes” to apologize to the co-author of a stadium bill after getting into a Twitter tiff with the veteran of the Iraqi war. Berrian told the double amputee and Minnesota representative via Twitter to ‘sit down and shut up’ after Berrian received criticism about his performance following Sunday’s loss.
Minnesota Vikings receiver Bernard Berrian called Rep. John Kriesel to apologize to him after the two of them became involved in a public dispute on Twitter about Berrian’s use and effectiveness in the Vikings offense. It didn’t help that Kriesel happens to be a co-author of the Vikings stadium bill that has struggled to make much headway of late while the team is hoping that Gov. Mark Dayton calls a special session to address the issue in the coming months.
Kriesel confirmed Monday afternoon — via Twitter — that Berrian called him and left a message, but as of mid-afternoon the two had yet to talk. Berrian said apologies aren’t done on messages, but he “would hope” to apologize when they speak over the phone.
Berrian said he wasn’t aware that Kriesel was a wounded double amputee from the Iraqi war, but said that had nothing to do with the comments between the two after the Vikings lost their fourth straight game to start the season.
It started when Berrian responded to a fan who tweeted that the receiver should be cut after only having two catches this year. Berrian responded via Twitter, saying the fan wouldn’t be so critical to Berrian if he saw him face to face.
Another Twitter user got involved and came to Berrian’s defense, writing that he saw Berrian open five times in the Vikings’ 22-17 loss to Kansas City Sunday afternoon. Berrian responded, “been like that the last 4 yrs." He maintained that stance when talking to reporters on Monday.
After some more volleys on Twitter, Kriesel wrote on his Twitter account: “If you want to follow a hilarious twitter account, try @B_Twice (Bernard Berrian) who says that he's open a lot and should get the ball more.”
Within minutes, Berrian fired back: “anytime u wanna watch the film with me. Not just one game but all of them ... and if not sit down n shut up!!”
Kriesel responded: “Don't be pissed at me dude. Make a play.”
Others came to Kriesel’s defense and brought up the fact that he lost both his legs serving for the Army National Guard in Iraq and is a Vikings stadium supporter.
Berrian responded to one person that defended Kriesel, writing, “Shouldn't have opened his mouth. Especially bout something he knows nothing about. How classy is that of him?? ... and for future reference both my parents and my older bro served in the military.”
When asked about the “war or words” on Monday, Berrian refuted the phrasing of the question.
“I wouldn’t really say it was a war. Nobody got shot,” Berrian said. “Just a couple friendly words going back and forth between two people.
“… I rebuttaled [sic]. I can’t start [it] with a rebuttal. But, I mean, it’s no blame to go around. It’s just words going back and forth between two people.”
While Berrian said he didn’t know about Kriesel’s veteran military status when he made his comments, he was surely informed by the Vikings of Kriesel’s support on their stadium bill.
That was part of Kriesel’s exchange with others on Twitter Sunday when he wrote, “I don't expect Berrian to care if I'm a stadium supporter or not. He won't be in the NFL when the stadium opens ...”
On Monday, apparently cooler heads prevailed. Vikings coach Leslie Frazier talked with Berrian and said his attempt to call and apologize was welcome news for the organization, and Berrian said it was his idea to call Kriesel.
"That was encouraging,” Frazier said. “We want to make sure that our focus is on football and trying to win football games. I think going forward he'll handle things the right way."
The fact that Kriesel is a co-author of the Vikings stadium bill didn’t help the perception of the Twitter entries, but the Vikings said the exchange should have no effect on their stadium efforts and said Berrian’s call to apologize wasn’t influenced by that.
“Bernard wanted to reach out to him and apologize. I think that’s important,” said Jeff Anderson, Vikings director of corporate communications. “It has nothing to do with the stadium effort. It’s about he didn’t mean to disrespect him. That’s what he called him to say.
“It just happened to be a guy that is involved with the stadium and obviously we appreciate his support. But that has nothing to do with what happened between him and Bernard.”
Frazier said “there’s no doubt” the Vikings need a new stadium, and the Vikings have been trying to separate their losing performance on the field in the midst of what is quickly becoming a rebuilding year from their quest for a partially publicly financed stadium that has been on their agenda for more than a decade.
“I hope our fans and constituents across the state understand the importance of it," Frazier said. "We're going to do all we can and we're doing all we can to get our season turned around. Whether we're 15 and whatever or 0-4 at this point, hopefully it doesn't interfere with the fact that we need a new stadium. We need a new stadium.”
Frazier said he talks to the team about keeping some of their frustrations in-house.
“When you have a veteran mix along with some of the younger players we have, you have to address a lot of things,” Frazier said. “Where you're in the midst of a situation like ours right now where we're 0-4, it's important that you're clear what the message should be and what the message should be going out. It's something that we do have to address."
The Vikings don’t discourage players from using Twitter, but they do warn them of the potential pitfalls that go along with the benefits during a training camp presentation on social media.
“[Twitter] is a way to communicate directly to their fans to help their brand,” Anderson said. “Ultimately, that’s what it’s about. It’s not just being a good football player, but also being in the community and being involved with our fans, so it’s a great way for them to have some back and forth with fans, but we also teach them that there are detriments, there are downfalls to social media and they have to be aware of them.”
The Vikings have seen the benefits of social media as well. They use it to promote player appearances and charity events as well as ticket specials, and they’ve even used popular tweeter/punter Chris Kluwe, among others, to help with those promotions.
“Kluwe is a great example [by promoting] the Muscular Dystrophy [Association]. He can push that, something he supports,” Anderson said. “Guys can get up and talk about how it can be used for good, but they have to be careful.”
While Berrian said Monday that he “for the most part” ignores negative tweets from fans, he still wasn’t completely taking a complete mea culpa Monday.
“Regret's a funny word. I don’t regret anything that I've done in my life, really,” he said. “I've made a decision and if some things that have happened are wrong, they're wrong. But I don't really try to regret anything.”
Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.