Vikings special teams coach Mike Priefer, whom the team has suspended for three games after an independent investigation found he made homophobic remarks in the presence of former punter and same-sex marriage advocate Chris Kluwe, made his first public comments on Thursday.
“I’d like to start off by saying that I like to set a higher standard for myself -- a higher standard of conduct, a higher standard of work ethic, a higher standard of being a father and a husband and I expect a lot from my players as well,” Priefer said. “My wife and I raise our children this way in terms of our last name and what that means. Remember who you are. In this regard, in this situation, with my comment, I failed. I didn’t just go below the bar. I went way below the bar. I made a mistake. I was wrong. I brought a lot of undue attention to the Minnesota Vikings organization and brought an unwanted distraction, and I apologize. The apology that I spoke about, that I put out on Friday, I want to reiterate that in a very humble and sincere manner.”
Head coach Mike Zimmer said he supports Priefer, whom he kept on staff after being hired in January to replace Leslie Frazier.
“We all make mistakes,” he said. “We all try to learn from our mistakes. And I think this guy is a very high-character, quality person that I want to stand behind. Honestly, I want to stand behind him because I know what is inside of him, I know what’s in his heart. And he made a mistake, and if anyone here hasn’t made a mistake, I want you to raise your hand, because I know I’ve made plenty.”
General manager Rick Spielman was asked if the team considered firing Priefer.
“When the report came out last Friday I know we reviewed everything, and this is what we thought and our ownership thought was the best course of action.”
Vikings officials launched the investigation after a first-person essay written by Kluwe was published on Deadspin in January. It was titled "I was an NFL Player Until I was Fired by Two Cowards and A Bigot."
In the essay, Kluwe describes special teams coach Mike Priefer as "a bigot who didn't agree with the cause I was working for" and recalls one exchange in which Priefer said, "We should round up all the gays, send them to an island, and then nuke it until it glows."
Kluwe alleges Minnesota cut him in May 2013 due to his public support of gay rights.
Kluwe intended to file a lawsuit against the Vikings, but his lawyer and the team have reportedly resumed talks about a possible settlement.
- Chris Johnson