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'Sex boat' allegations rock Vikings

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Minnesota Vikings players practice at their facility in Eden Prairie on Wednesday. (MPR Photo/Brandt Williams)
Members of the Minnesota Vikings are responding to allegations of lewd and possibly illegal behavior that took place nearly a week ago during a chartered cruise on Lake Minnetonka. Witnesses have said that they saw men, who they believed to be Vikings players, engaging in sexual acts with women in front other passengers and crewmembers. No arrests or charges have been made but the incident is under investigation. The Vikings management is not commenting on details, but some team member are clearly not happy about the scrutiny the investigation is bringing to a team already facing its fair share of woes.

St. Paul, Minn. — Attorney Stephen Doyle has been gathering eyewitness accounts from employees of Al and Alma's Boat Charter, the company that was hired to provide two boats for the cruise. With the help of the witnesses, who worked on the boats serving food and liquor, Doyle says he has determined that about 20 current or former Vikings players were part of the 90 people on the boats.

Doyle, who represents the charter company, says the cruise had gone on for 40 minutes before the captains, concerned for the safety of their crews, decided to turn back.

"There were lots of people involved in sexual activity," he said. The activity took place over both boats. it was not something that was attempted to be hidden from anybody, including this young crew."

Doyle says the men, believed to be Vikings, were described as being very large. He says some berated crew members when they ran out of the brand of Vodka they liked. Others became beligerent when the crew denied their requests to turn off the boats' lights. And Doyle says some of the men began asking the female crew to join in the party.

"Imagine a 250 pound or 300 pound guy inviting a 90-pound, 100-pound waitress to dance for them as she's just watched him perform various acts with somebody else either on furniture or the floor or whatever. It's just a frightening, frightening experience for them. They were just flabbergasted," he said.

Doyle says he will turn the list of Vikings over to the Hennepin County Sheriff's Office, which is investigating the allegations. And he says he'll turn it over to the team. Doyle says the owners of the charter company are upset about how their employees were treated and how this incident might affect their reputation.

The incident certainly isn't helping the Vikings reputation. Last year, three players were arrested for beating up a man outside a downtown Minneapolis nightclub. This year running back Onterrio Smith was suspended by the NFL for the season after he was caught with a device design to help beat drug tests. And several other players have been recently arrested for misdemeanor offeneses.

"Quite frankly I'm not happy about it," said Vikings head coach Mike Tice as he addressed the media Wednesday afternoon as his team prepared to face division rivals the Chicago Bears on Sunday. He didn't comment directly on the details of the allegations. But Tice was clearly not happy about having his team face something that could distract them from their preparation.

"Our job is to get ready to win football games and anytime you have something like these allegations that occurred, doesn't make it any simpler," he said.

Tice also says he's had conversations with new Vikings owner Zygi Wilf about the allegations. He says the team is in the process of formulating a code of conduct for the organization.

Like their coach, Vikings players also weren't commenting on details of the incident. And some, like linebacker Keith Newman, weren't happy with the larger-than-usual media presence in the locker room. He glowered at an unfamiliar female reporter who asked him about the scandal.

"This is the first time I've seen you in here. So I mean, like I said, if you want to talk to me about the Chicago Bears, I'll talk about the Chicago Bears. Other than that I'm not commenting on anything related to our team last Thursday," he said. Running back Mewelde Moore admitted he was on the cruise, but he says he didn't see or participate in the debauchery.

"Sex? Come on. Look, I'm engaged. So, none of that. That'll put me in trouble," he said.

While the team prepares to get its second win of the season on Sunday, the Vikings new ownership is trying to persuade legislators to convene a special session and approve a stadium bill. Some legislators say they are not optimistic about the possibility of a special session or getting the Vikings bill passed. And some legislative leaders have said the allegations from last Thursday certainly won't help their case.

Officials with the Hennepin County Sheriff's office say the investigation may take several weeks to complete.