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Chris Kluwe’s battle with the Vikings takes an ugly turn

Former Minnesota Vikings punter Chris Kluwe intends to sue the team over allegations of anti-gay conduct by a coach, his lawyer said Tuesday. (Elizabeth Flores/The Star Tribune via Associated Press)

The fallout continues from ex-Minnesota Vikings punter Chris Kluwe’s battle with the team for which he played for eight seasons. The latest developments have Kluwe accusing Minnesota of trying to ‘play dirty,’ and the punter firing back. However, in responding to the Vikings, Kluwe may have cast himself in an even worse light than the team did.

First, a quick refresher. Kluwe punted for the Vikings from 2005 through the 2012 season, after which he was cut with a year left on his contract. Kluwe plans on suing Minnesota for, among other things, defamation and religious discrimination.

While with the team, Kluwe became an increasingly outspoken advocate of gay rights. Several months after he was released, Kluwe wrote an essay for Deadspin titled, “I was an NFL player until I was fired by two cowards and a bigot,” referring to then-coach Leslie Frazier, general manager Rick Spielman and special teams coach Mike Priefer. Kluwe accused Priefer of making several homophobic comments, specifically this one:

As we sat down in our chairs, Mike Priefer, in one of the meanest voices I can ever recall hearing, said: “We should round up all the gays, send them to an island, and then nuke it until it glows.”

On Friday, the Vikings gave Priefer a three-game suspension for his behavior. They also released a report that they had commissioned to analyze their investigation of Kluwe’s claims of having been cut because of his political activism and not because of his on-field performance. The report supported Kluwe’s allegation that Priefer had said he wanted to “nuke” gay people. But it also cast Kluwe in an unfavorable light, both in terms of his punting and of his own personal conduct, including this anecdote:

Kluwe also made fun of the Vikings’ then Head Strength and Conditioning Coach Tom Kanavy, an alumnus of ‒ and former coach at ‒ Penn State University, concerning the Jerry Sandusky/Penn State situation. In his interview, Kanavy explained that Kluwe cut the seat out of his pants and then put them on to imitate a victim of the Penn State child-abuse scandal. According to Kanavy, Kluwe said that he was a “Penn State victim” and to “stay away” from him while his buttocks were exposed.

Whereas Priefer’s punishment might have been expected to provide Kluwe some measure of satisfaction, the report clearly enraged him, and he took to Twitter Friday night to express his dissatisfaction:

Kluwe later tweeted that “[expletive] is about to get real,” then went on to post these tweets:

Kluwe had garnered quite a bit of sympathy and admiration for his willingness to advocate gay rights while suspecting that his stance was putting his career in jeopardy. However, he has now taken a hit in the court of public opinion. Kluwe is not denying that he made light of the Penn State case, and that apparent callousness about the awful plight of Sandusky’s victims doesn’t square well with his campaign for greater tolerance and compassion for homosexuals.

His own tweet about Vikings players having been “caught in a compromising situation with an underage girl” may be even more troublesome. What he described could have been a felony, and as he apparently is saying no more about it, it appears that he is concealing information that would be of high value to law enforcement officials, not to mention the girl’s family. On Saturday, Kluwe tweeted this:

Kluwe’s charges about the reasons behind his dismissal from the Vikings are powerful, and they deserve to be weighed on their own merits, not just as the context for possible accusations of his own hypocrisy. However, in referring obliquely to statutory rape, Kluwe appears to be adhering to the same “code of the locker room” that enabled Priefer’s homophobic comment and, in a less direct way, Sandusky’s sexual predation.

Gregg Doyel of CBS Sports reached Kluwe for comment but was unable to get the punter to elaborate on his tweets. All of which adds a layer of irony to another of Kluwe’s Twitter posts from Friday: