Priefer, a veteran special teams coordinator, joined the Browns in 2019. He previously spent time with the Chiefs, Broncos and Vikings. It was in Minnesota where Priefer ran into some trouble, getting suspended by the team for a homophobic remark he made in 2012.
According to former Minnesota Vikings punter Chris Kluwe — an LGBTQ advocate — Priefer told him: “We should round up all the gays, send them to an island, and then nuke it until it glows.” Kluwe described Priefer’s actions in more detail in an in-depth Deadspin article he wrote in 2014.
Priefer apologized for the remark and said he learned a “hard lesson.” The Vikings suspended him for three weeks and Priefer attended sensitivity training.
“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 after the suspension was announced. “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.”
Mike Priefer Still Taking Heat For Remark
Unfortunately for Priefer, people don’t forget on the internet and his name has been a trending topic due to his new role, brought on by Browns head coach Kevin Stefanski testing positive for COVID-19.
An article on Deadspin has the headline: The POS who once said ‘nuke the gays’ will be coaching the Browns on Sunday.
Others voiced their displeasure on social media.
“Mike Priefer? The dude that said he wanted to nuke all the gays? How does he still have a job in the NFL?” one user wrote.
Mike Priefer? The dude that said he wanted to nuke all the gays? How does he still have a job in the NFL? https://t.co/gB4RyU3i2n
— Jamal Spencer (@JamalSpencerTV) January 5, 2021
“I truly hate to rain on Cleveland’s ‘finally getting to the playoffs’ parade, but with Stefanski out due to COVID, your interim HC will be Mike ‘Nuke All The Gays’ Priefer. That’s…not good,” another wrote.
I truly hate to rain on Cleveland's "finally getting to the playoffs" parade, but with Stefanski out due to COVID, your interim HC will be Mike "Nuke All The Gays" Priefer.
That's…not good. https://t.co/Lj3MX0dKas
— David McDonald (@ireworkings) January 5, 2021
Steelers Know ‘Very Little’ About Coach Priefer
Stefanski will be sorely missed by the Browns, considering the first-year skipper is a contender for Coach of the Year and he calls the offensive plays. But, as Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin points out, all of Stefanski’s duties won’t fall squarely on Priefer.
“Obviously, I know very little about coach Priefer in terms of global decision making as it pertains to being a head coach,” Steelers coach Mike Tomlin told reporters on Tuesday. “But I’m sure that they’re going to disperse many of those responsibilities. Sure, he’ll be the guy acting as head coach on the sideline and making decisions pertaining to challenges and things of that nature. But I imagine behind the scenes that they’re going to disperse coach Stefanski’s responsibilities.
#Steelers coach Mike Tomlin, his Zoom conference, not worrying about playing a #Browns team amid their COVID-19 crisis. Acknowledges he won't be facing Kevin Stefanski. "Obviously I know v. little about Mike Priefer' in terms of decision-making as a hc
— Mary Kay Cabot (@MaryKayCabot) January 5, 2021
“So it’s not just coach Priefer. And so I’m not going to spend a lot of time worrying about that. I do know coach Stefanski and do have a relationship with him, but that doesn’t assure you of anything from a preparation standpoint. This is a small fraternity — NFL coaching. We know a lot of guys week in and week out.”
Three-time Pro Bowl left guard Joel Bitonio, wide receiver KhaDarel Hodge, tight ends coach Drew Petzing and defensive backs coach Jeff Howard also were announced as positive tests on Tuesday.
Cornerbacks Denzel Ward and Kevin Johnson, linebackers BJ Goodson and Malcolm Smith, safety Andrew Sendejo and rookie tight end Harrison Bryant, offensive line coach Bill Callahan, wide receivers coach Chad O’Shea and assistant offensive line coach Scott Peters were all forced to sit out last week due to COVID-19 and their statuses for this week’s Wild Card game are uncertain.