MINNEAPOLIS - The Minnesota Vikings and former punter Chris Kluwe said Tuesday they reached a settlement averting a lawsuit over Kluwe's claim that the team wrongfully released him last year because of his outspoken support for same-sex marriage rights.
Under the deal, the Vikings will donate an undisclosed sum of money to five gay rights-related charities over the next five years. Kluwe said he won't receive any money as part of the settlement.
"This will help a lot of people that really do need that help," Kluwe said. He said he was convinced the Vikings and owners Zygi and Mark Wilf were committed to the cause, and committed to being leaders on this issue in the NFL.
"They want to make this a reality where there is no discrimination in sports, there is no homophobia," Kluwe said at a news conference.
The Vikings said in a statement that the deal resolves all issues related to Kluwe's departure from the team and his accusations that a coach made anti-gay comments. Zygi Wilf said he wished Kluwe the best.
"In regards to this matter, our focus remains on maintaining a culture of tolerance, inclusion and respect, and creating the best workplace environment for our players, coaches and staff," Wilf said in the statement.
Under the settlement, the Vikings also agreed to require all team employees to undergo sensitivity training four times a year. The team will also host a national symposium in Minneapolis next spring that will address LGBT issues and professional athletics, said Kluwe's attorney, Clayton Halunen.
In addition to his wrongful termination claim, Kluwe alleged that special teams co-ordinator Mike Priefer made anti-gay comments and tried to agitate him with homophobic language. Last month, the team issued a 29-page summary of a report that found no merit to Kluwe's claim that he was wrongfully dismissed, but it confirmed that Priefer made anti-gay remarks during practice. The Vikings suspended Priefer for three games and ordered him to undergo sensitivity training.
Kluwe threatened to sue the team if it didn't release the full 150-page report, but Halunen said Tuesday that the Vikings had done a thorough investigation into Kluwe's allegations. Halunen said he and Kluwe had initially pushed for the report's release out of concern that there may have been a systemic problem within the organization, but they viewed the full report as part of mediation and are satisfied there are no widespread issues.
Halunen identified two of the five nonprofits as the Matthew Shepard Foundation and You Can Play, a charity run by retired NFL player Wade Davis, who is gay. Both focus on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender issues. He did not disclose the names of the other charities, saying they hadn't been notified yet.
He said the financial terms weren't disclosed due to a confidentiality agreement, adding: "This is a substantial commitment to LGBT causes."
Kluwe averaged 44.4 yards per punt over his eight-season career in Minnesota, including a career-high 39.7 yard net average in 2012. But he ranked just 17th in the NFL in punting that season before he was cut. He hasn't gotten a kicking job elsewhere since his release. He said Tuesday he is considering writing a book and pursuing public speaking opportunities.
Kluwe said taking a stand was worth it.
"It's always worth it," he said. "You have a children's game, and you have basic human rights. And there's one of those I'm always going to value more than the other."
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