The Minnesota Vikings have retained two lawyers to conduct an independent review into allegations made Thursday by former punter Chris Kluwe, who claimed in an Internet blog post that the team released him because of his public stance in support of same-sex marriage.
Eric Magnuson, the former chief justice of the Minnesota Supreme Court, and Chris Madel, a former U.S. Department of Justice Trial attorney, will lead the investigation.
"It is extremely important for the Vikings organization to react immediately and comprehensively with an independent review of these allegations," Vikings owner/president Mark Wilf said in a statement issued by the team Friday.
Magnuson and Madel are partners in the firm Robins, Kaplan, Miller & Ciresi L.L.P. Their investigation is already underway, according to the Vikings' release.
"This is a highly sensitive matter that we as an organization will address with integrity," Vikings vice president of legal affairs and chief administrative officer Kevin Warren said in the statement.
"Eric and Chris have stellar reputations in both the local and national legal community. They have handled numerous cases involving a wide range of issues, and we are confident they will move swiftly and fairly in completing this investigation."
In an article posted Thursday to the website Deadspin titled "I Was An NFL Player Until I Was Fired By Two Cowards And A Bigot," Kluwe criticized coach Leslie Frazier – who was fired Monday – and general manager Rick Spielman for discouraging his activism.
But Kluwe came down hardest on Vikings special teams coordinator Mike Priefer, whom he claimed "would use homophobic language in my presence" in the fall of 2012 while Kluwe was speaking out against the proposed Minnesota Gay Marriage Amendment that would have banned same-sex marriage and was voted down.
"Mike Priefer also said on multiple occasions that I would wind up burning in hell with the gays, and that the only truth was Jesus Christ and the Bible," Kluwe wrote. "He said all this in a semi-joking tone, and I responded in kind."
Priefer – a 47-year-old former Navy helicopter pilot who has spent 20 years as a college and pro special teams coach – denied the allegations and remained employed by the Vikings as of Thursday afternoon.
Several Vikings players came to Priefer's defense, including Kluwe's replacement, Jeff Locke, and place-kicker Blair Walsh, who emailed a statement to USA TODAY Sports that called the allegations "reprehensible and totally not compatible with what Mike Priefer stands for.
The Vikings released Kluwe on May 6, about a week after using a fifth-round draft pick on Jeff Locke. He signed a one-year contract with the Oakland Raiders 11 days later but lost out to another rookie punter, Marquette King, in camp and has been out of the NFL this season.
Kluwe, 32, closed the post by saying in part he published it in hopes Priefer never would hold a coaching position at any level again.
"I want to be clear that I do not tolerate discrimination of any type and am respectful of all individuals," Priefer said in a statement. "I personally have gay family members who I love and support just as I do any family member.
"The primary reason I entered coaching was to affect people in a positive way. As a coach, I have always created an accepting environment for my players, including Chris, and have looked to support them both on and off the field."
The Vikings investigation comes a little less than two months after the NFL hired attorney Ted Wells to investigate issues of workplace conduct with the Miami Dolphins, who asked the league for help after representatives for tackle Jonathan Martin turned over evidence of alleged abuse at the hands of teammate Richie Incognito.
The results of Wells' investigation, which are to be made public, have not yet been released. Martin never returned to the team after a cafeteria prank Oct. 28. Incognito finished the season on the suspended list.
"The Vikings contacted us yesterday about the matter and have kept us fully informed," league spokesman Greg Aiello wrote in an email to USA TODAY Sports. "We have no plans to conduct a separate review."
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