Vikings players emerged on Twitter on Thursday, issuing statements in support of special teams coach Mike Priefer after former punter Chris Kluwe accused Priefer of using anti-gay remarks at different times during Kluwe’s final season with the Vikings.
Kluwe was a public critic of a proposed Minnesota amendment in 2012 that called to specify marriage as a union between “one man and one woman.” Kluwe wrote and talked about his support of gay marriage during countless interviews in his final year with the Vikings.
Kluwe, who was released in May 2013, shortly after the Vikings drafted punter Jeff Locke in the fifth round, wrote a scathing article for the web site Deadspin.com that accused Priefer of using several homophobic remarks, including this alleged one: “We should round up all the gays, send them to an island, and then nuke it until it glows.”
Priefer issued a statement saying he “vehemently” denied Kluwe’s allegations and the team issued a statement saying they take the allegations “very seriously and will thoroughly review this matter.”
Priefer’s current players came out in staunch support of him.
“I have had countless conversations and interactions with Coach Priefer, and I personally can attest to his integrity and character,” kicker Blair Walsh said in a statement. “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.”
Walsh also worked with Kluwe in the punter’s final season with the Vikings, 2012.
“As we all know, in the NFL you must perform at the highest level and meet the performance expectations of your coaches, management, and ownership. If these expectations, based upon past performance AND future potential for excellence, are not met, your NFL career with that team, is over. I believe this was the case with Chris, and it is unfair to think that his release was anything other than football related,” Walsh continued.
“In my time here at Minnesota, Rick Spielman and Leslie Frazier have exemplified true leadership. Contrary to Chris’ statements, they have promoted a workplace environment that was conducive for success. At no time did I ever feel suppressed or that I could not be myself.”
Spielman, the Vikings general manager, and Frazier, the head coach that was fired on Monday, were accused by Kluwe of being “cowards” for supporting Priefer.
Kluwe wrote that other special teams players heard some of Priefer’s remarks. Walsh likely would have been counted among them.
Locke, who replaced Kluwe, also supported Priefer.
“In my short time with the Vikings, Coach Priefer has treated me with respect and has helped me develop as a player and person,” Locke wrote on Twitter.
“I have never witnessed any actions or statements by Coach Priefer similar to those described in the recent Deadspin article.”
Other players who were part of the special teams units this year also emerged on Twitter to support Priefer.
“Coach Mike Preifer has always been professional and one of the best special teams coaches I have been around!” fullback Jerome Felton tweeted. “In any meeting I have been in, I have never witnessed him say anything close to what’s been alleged. That’s just my experience!”
And from safety Harrison Smith on Twitter: “Since I’ve had the privilege of playing for Mike Preifer he has been nothing but a class act coach and a respectful human being.”
Despite Frazier’s firing, Priefer is under contract with the Vikings through 2014, but even if he does survive these allegations, his status with the team will be up to the next head coach.
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.