The Cleveland Browns are in the playoffs for the first time since 2002 but will be without head coach Kevin Stefanski after he tested positive for the coronavirus. The Browns’ head coach on Sunday will be special teams coach Mike Priefer, who was suspended by the Minnesota Vikings in 2014 for making an anti-gay comment to then-punter Chris Kluwe.
Kluwe, long an advocate for same-sex marriage and LGBTQ rights, sued the team and reached a settlement in 2014 after claiming he was released by the team for his views and specifically singled out Priefer for what he said was a history of anti-gay comments, including one saying, “We should round up all the gays, send them to an island, and then nuke it until it glows” during a special teams meeting.
During a 2014 investigation, Priefer at first denied making any anti-gay comments but then admitted to saying “nuke” the gays in 2012 after being told that Vikings long snapper Cullen Loeffler had corroborated the remark. This is from the team’s 2014 investigation:
Loeffler commented that he did not think that Priefer was serious when he made the nuclear comment and that he thought Priefer was just trying to stop Kluwe and Loeffler joking around. Furthermore, Loeffler said that both he and Kluwe laughed off Priefer’s comment at the time. Loeffler did not corroborate Kluwe’s claims regarding any other comment Priefer allegedly made.
During a second interview on May 13, 2014, when confronted with Loeffler’s statements, Priefer noted that “if [Loeffler] remembers me saying something on the practice field, I am not going to disagree with it.” While Priefer accepted what Loeffler conveyed and acknowledged that he may have made the statement, he was adamant that any comment was made in jest, as Loeffler confirmed. Priefer said “it was a joke between three people, three men.”
The upshot? Priefer was suspended three games (reduced to two after going through sensitivity training) and the Vikings pledged to contribute $100,000 to LGBTQ groups. After the team reached a settlement with Kluwe in 2014, additional contributions were pledged and the team enhanced its sensitivity training. Priefer, a Cleveland native, left the Vikings and joined the Browns for the 2019 season.
Priefer did apologize, for his behavior, saying, “I owe an apology to many people — the Wilf family [the team’s owners], the Minnesota Vikings organization and fans, my family, the LGBT community, Chris Kluwe and anyone else that I offended with my insensitive remark. I regret what has occurred and what I said. I am extremely sorry but I will learn from this situation and will work on educating others to create more tolerance and respect.”
All this happened in 2014, so I have no idea what Priefer’s views are currently on LGBTQ people. In 2012, Priefer, in defending himself, said, “I personally have gay family members who I love and support just as I do any family member.”
As for Kluwe, he was asked on Twitter today what his reaction was to Priefer coaching the Browns against the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday: “I’m sure he will continue the fine tradition of Cleveland’s postseason success and I wish him the best while doing so.” The Browns last won a playoff game in 1994.