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Michael Sam And The Chris Kluwe Investigation

Would drafting Sam take heat off of the Vikings organization and special teams coach Mike Priefer while simultaneously weakening Chris Kluwe's claims against the team?

Would drafting Michael Sam take the heat off the Kluwe investigation?
Would drafting Michael Sam take the heat off the Kluwe investigation?
Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

In the wake of the Michael Sam announcement that he is gay, I've seen several posts on various threads wondering if drafting Sam would somehow affect the current case that Chris Kluwe has against the Vikings. Let's try to break this down, and cover the angles that have been brought up in the last day or two.

First, let's deal with the most superficial reason--that drafting Sam would somehow be a poke in the eye to Chris Kluwe on a personal level. That's stupid, both in theory and in practice, if it would come to pass. As a team, your over arching goal is to draft what you think are the best players in each round to build the most competitive team possible. That should be the only criteria, ultimately, that you look at. Now, we can have a healthy debate about which player the Vikings should have drafted in each round, and I'm sure we will. But drafting a player simply to piss off a former player is, quite possibly, the most idiotic reason I can think of to pick a guy. Although Mike Priefer is still on staff and Rick Spielman is still the GM, Mike Zimmer wasn't even here when all of this allegedly happened, and I can't see him putting up with this line of thinking,

Secondly, and the one I've seen most widely referred to, is that drafting Sam will in some way weaken Kluwe's case against the Vikings. The reasoning is that by drafting Sam, this will somehow cut off Kluwe's claims of a hostile work environment and wrongful termination off at the knees. Because by drafting a gay player, the Vikings organization is now a place that is not, in fact, a workplace that is hostile to gay players, because Sam, obviously, is gay.

I can kind of understand this line of thinking, but it's wrong on a couple of counts. Although there is commonality in the over arching issue of both the Michael Sam announcement and the Chris Kluwe allegations, there is no commonality with regards to this case. They are, in fact, mutually exclusive. For one, Kluwe himself said in the original Deadspin story that Wilf supported him and the cause he was speaking out on, so at least at face value there is no sign of organizational hostility from ownership on down. Priefer can't un-say what he allegedly said, nor can the Vikings un-do the hostile work environment he allegedly created by drafting Sam, so the drafting of Sam would not be a remedy that would repair those two accusations after the fact, as it were.

In researching this story, I contacted a couple of legal friends of mine from my Off Tackle Empire Days, and Chad Bell was gracious enough to further elaborate:

There's a concept in the law called "mitigation of dangerous conditions." If you have a dangerous hole in your backyard and someone falls in and hurts themselves, and there is a dispute over whether or not having that hole was negligence, the fact that you later fill in the hole to prevent others from falling in and hurting themselves is NOT considered "proof" that the hole was or was not dangerous before. It's just you "mitigating" the condition in case it is dangerous. Similarly, the Vikings hiring an openly gay player would not be "proof" that their workplace was not hostile when Kluwe was there and/or that his firing was not would just (arguably) be a sign in the court of public opinion that the Vikings were moving to correct past problems (and/or that they are maybe mitigating their past problems with gays in the workplace), but have no bearing on the actual court case.

Now, Chad emphasized that this was a fairly off the cuff answer without in depth researching of Minnesota law, but this makes a ton of sense. If the Vikings draft Sam, it would be because of his football abilities, one would hope, and even if there was an ulterior motive in selecting him, it wouldn't help un-do what allegedly happened, and I doubt that it would make Kluwe's pending lawsuit go away.

And hopefully, if the Vikings do draft Michael Sam, we will debate his pick based solely on his ability. Well, I'm sure we will, because DN is awesome like that.