MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — The Minnesota Vikings announced Tuesday that the team is investing nearly $1 million in social justice efforts focusing on voter registration, criminal justice and law enforcement reform, and the teaching of Black history.
The money is just part of a $5 million pledge the Wilf family, which owns the Vikings, made earlier this year following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis. The team’s social justice committee determines where the financial resources will go and how Vikings players will be involved in particular initiatives. Much of the $1 million will go to programs that Vikings have worked with in the past.
“We are proud of the foundation Vikings players have established over the last several years, actively engaging our community, but we are all aware of the imperative work that needs to continue,” said Vikings owner/President Mark Wilf, in a statement. “We are unified in working to create meaningful and substantial change and believe these initiatives will help move us forward.”
Ahead of the presidential election in November, the Vikings say they will use the team’s platform to encourage fans to vote via “Be The Change” videos featuring Vikings players. The team will also lead by example, as the entire organization has pledged to be registered to vote ahead of the election. Additionally, the team says it will help supply personal protective equipment for local election workers.
As for local investments in social justice, the team says it’s upping its financial commitment to groups like All Square, a craft grilled cheese shop in south Minneapolis that helps those who’ve been in the criminal justice system get back on their feet. Other groups and nonprofits the team is investing in include Project Success, The Link, The Page Education Foundation, and People Serving People.
The team’s efforts will also directly affect students. Earlier this year, the team announced a George Floyd scholarship with a $125,000 endowment that will generate approximately $5,000 each year for Black high school seniors in the Twin Cities. This year’s scholarship recipient was Mimi Kol-Balfour of Minneapolis’ Southwest High School.
The team says players will also be involved in discussions about race and inequality with Minnesota high schoolers through the organization RISE. Additionally, the Vikings have committed to expanding the footprint of a Black history curriculum from 12 to 24 schools in Minnesota. The curriculum, called 306 Black History, features videos from Vikings legends while highlighting personal African-American stories of determination, resilience and creativity.
The team’s commitment to social justice comes following George Floyd’s death on Memorial Day. The 46-year-old Black man died following an arrest where a white Minneapolis police officer, Derek Chauvin, knelt on his neck for several minutes, even as Floyd repeatedly told him he couldn’t breathe. Cellphone video of the fatal arrest sparked days of protest and rioting in the Twin Cities. Chauvin is charged with murder.
In the wake of the protests, sports teams and leagues in Minnesota and across the country have pledged to do more for social justice. For example, the Pohlad family, which owns the Minnesota Twins, pledged $25 million to rebuilding the Twin Cities and dismantling institutional racism. Also, the NBA has committed to allowing some areas to be used as polling places in the November election.