Less than a week after a dozen Minnesota Vikings players attended George Floyd's memorial in Minneapolis, the entire organization has announced a renewed commitment to social justice by way of a $5 million pledge from team ownership to various causes. Additionally, as COO Andrew Miller and general manager Rick Spielman confirmed on a special Zoom call featuring player advocates and front office executives, the team plans to create a local scholarship in Floyd's name, paying tribute to one of America's most recent public victims of police brutality.
The Vikings have funded an internal Social Justice Committee for several years, with the Wilf family contributing $500,000 to the group between 2018-2019, and its participants have always been given freedom for community work. All the money contributed by team ownership to the committee, for example, is allocated by member players to different organizations without restriction, from schools with low-income students to programs centered on law enforcement relations.
In the wake of Floyd's death at the hands of a Minneapolis police officer, and the subsequent national uprising over systemic racism, the team has simply upped its commitment to the African-American community, highlighting it as one of the primary recipients of its financial embrace.
"(Our) platform is both a privilege and a responsibility," Miller said in Wednesday's Zoom call. "We understand, as leaders, that it's going to take more than money. It's going to take more than statements ... to eliminate racism, to promote racial and social equity. To become champions of diversity and inclusion."
Also on the call were co-defensive coordinator and Social Justice Committee member Andre Patterson, running back Ameer Abdullah, linebacker Eric Kendricks and safety Anthony Harris. Each of them shared candidly about their personal experiences and motivations stemming from injustice.
Abdullah, for example, brought generations of hurt to the conversation. After sharing that his father was part of a Martin Luther King Jr. march in the 1960s, he admitted that "2020 has hit me really hard ... to experience Ahmaud Arbery in February, then George Floyd, it was two gut punches to me. But it was also a wake-up call that this has been a persisting and prominent issue in America for centuries." Harris, meanwhile, said he took extra precautions when starting a conversation with a police officer in his own neighborhood the other evening: "It crossed my mind that I could potentially be shot or viewed as a threat."
Each of them emphasized, though, that they're encouraged by the Vikings' big-money commitment to addressing the issue.
"The past couple weeks have been very difficult, very emotional," Spielman said. "It's a harsh reminder of how hate and racism still exist in our world today ... Yesterday, I called a meeting with our entire personnel department. Tears flowed from that meeting, because we have our black and brown employees talking ... (and) if they get pulled over, they don't know if they'll get home to see their families. Our white scouts can't understand that because they've never been in that situation.
"It just tears me apart that we have a society that's still like that," he continued. "It's really brought to light that we really have to educate ourselves, we truly have to have these uncomfortable conversations and not be afraid."