MINNEAPOLIS -- Two professional sports franchises in the Twin Cities have made significant contributions to racial and social justice campaigns in light of the killing of George Floyd, a black man, when former police officer Derek Chauvin, who is white, kneeled on his neck for more than eight minutes on May 25 in Minneapolis.
The Minnesota Twins, who are owned by the Pohlad family, announced Wednesday they are committing $25 million to racial justice through their family foundation. The "two-phased, community-based approach" will first focus on providing immediate relief and rebuilding organizations in impacted communities and matching employee donations to charitable efforts. The second phase is rooted in long-term efforts to partner with other "equally committed organizations to help change the systems that create racial inequities and marginalize people of color."
The Minnesota Vikings and the Wilf family also announced Wednesday a $5 million donation to national social justice causes, a fund that will be determined through collaboration with the team's social justice committee and directed toward organizations "fighting hate, racism and inequality."
"We continue to be inspired by these players as they advocate for transformational change in this very challenging moment," Vikings co-owner Mark Wilf said. "We are proud of their efforts to use their platform in an effort to end deep-seated social injustices. Their thoughtful approach and our conversations with them have deeply moved us, certainly in large part because of our family's history and long-standing commitment to human rights, but also because of their steadfast dedication to not sit idly by when they have the ability to make a difference."
The Vikings' social justice committee, which was established with the Wilfs' financial backing in 2018, met with members of the media for nearly an hour and a half on Wednesday to discuss the organization's outreach efforts following Floyd's death and the impact the team can have in helping the community grow and move forward.
Linebacker Eric Kendricks, safety Anthony Harris, running back Ameer Abdullah and co-defensive coordinator/defensive line coach Andre Patterson shed light on their experiences as black men in America while highlighting how the team plans to work with community organizations and juvenile detention centers, provide legal aid and improve relations between law enforcement officers and the areas they serve.
"We've really been handed down this responsibility," Abdullah said. "We kind of step into this when we become professional athletes.
"In times of turmoil, it's important to not only be someone that someone can enjoy, running down the field or making that sack or getting that interception, in Anthony's situation, but someone who can lead revolutionary change in our country to stand for something -- because if you don't stand for something, you can fall for anything. Entertainment has been a big catalyst to a lot of those things, and we can kind of gear toward it in that sense."
Among the group's initial priorities was creating the endowed George Floyd Legacy Scholarship. The $125,000 initial establishing gift will generate approximately $5,000 annually to benefit African American graduating seniors in the Minneapolis and St. Paul area who are pursuing postsecondary education.
Last week, in response to the first statement the NFL released acknowledging the deaths of Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery, Kendricks denounced the league's stance and called for stronger action from the sport's governing body to "let the players know what you're actually doing."
Kendricks was part of a player video that called on the league to condemn racism and support black players. Twenty-four hours after the video went viral, commissioner Roger Goodell taped a video response from his home showing solidarity with black players and black communities.
"I woke up a few days after the incident, and I was super emotional," Kendricks said. "Obviously frustrated. These things have been just happening. For us to just ignore that was an issue for me. Me calling the NFL out, me putting that pressure on the league and doing that, using my platform, wasn't just to apply pressure to them. It was to apply pressure for people around me; it was to apply pressure to myself. We all need to understand these issues that are going on in our country. We all need to not only educate ourselves further on these issues. We need to get out and vote. We need to get out and vote and be a part of the electoral process of these policies.
"This was all for me to apply the pressure. It was all positive intentions. Obviously, I made a decision, but I stand by that decision. I wouldn't have done it, honestly, if the Vikings didn't have my back and we hadn't already been talking about these issues previously, already had a council that was devoted to these specific issues. And that's the reason why I really feel like I had to step up. In order for me to do my part, I need to start using my platform and shed more of a light to these issues."
In his video, Goodell admitted that the league was "wrong for not listening to NFL players earlier" and encouraged "all to speak out and peacefully protest," which could be interpreted as the league supporting players who choose to kneel during the national anthem this fall.
Back in 2018, when the league mandated new rules that banned players from kneeling, Vikings coach Mike Zimmer broached the subject during an offseason news conference, sharing his belief in the importance of players standing for the anthem.
In light of players across the NFL acknowledging that they will kneel this fall, along with Washington Redskins coach Ron Rivera saying Wednesday that he will support players who kneel, the Vikings have not revealed whether they will participate in such peaceful protests.
"Those are things that we haven't even talked about," Vikings general manager Rick Spielman said. "Our whole focus right now is what we can do and how we can create positive change. You want to bring people together, and 'How do we do that?' and promote the changes that definitely need to be made in this country, but internally, we haven't even discussed anything like that. I know that our ownership, Coach Zimmer, myself and our entire staff have this type of relationship where we can work side by side with each other because the common goal is the same."
Additionally, following Floyd's death, the University of Minnesota and Minneapolis Public Schools ended or restricted their relationship with the Minneapolis Police Department.
Although the Vikings said they have "opened a dialogue" with police chief Medaria Arradondo, including a meeting on Saturday among the chief, three officers and 10 players, the team did not say whether it will follow suit in ending its relationship with the department.
"We're still talking through, on a number of different levels internally and externally, we're trying to understand the different perspectives that people have and trying to make the best decision possible," Vikings chief operating officer Andrew Miller said. "There's complexities to any relationship, and ultimately, we want to do what's best for our organization and for our fans."