MINNEAPOLIS — Minnesota Vikings players stood together in solidarity against racial injustice following a practice at U.S. Bank Stadium Friday, vowing to "be the change."
Coach Mike Zimmer said players and coaches recently spent about two hours discussing their feelings following recent deaths of Black people at the hands of police officers and the nationwide protests that followed.
"We're sick to our stomachs, we're disgusted by the things that we're seeing, the lack of empathy that's being shown, the hijacking of the narratives. The list goes on and on," Vikings running back Ameer Abdullah said. "We can feel hopeless as athletes sometimes, to end this place that we are right now as a country."
Abdullah, the first of the players to speak to the gathered reporters, referenced both the shooting of Jacob Blake in Wisconsin, and the death of George Floyd under the knee of a Minneapolis police officer in May.
"What happened to Jacob Blake in front of his children should never happen. No children should ever witness their father being shot seven times in the back, regardless of the circumstance," Abdullah said. "As team, what we want, starting here in the city of Minneapolis, which has been the epicenter of a lot of the tragedies that happened this year ... we want proper prosecution of Derek Chauvin."
Tight end Kyle Rudolph said the team has two goals for the upcoming season: winning an NFL championship, and to "be the change" in society.
"We gotta keep chipping away, we can't get discouraged," Rudolph said. "We've gotta go out in this society and be the change, and it's not going to change overnight."
Abdullah said the team was speaking out to make certain their feelings on racial injustice are heard.
"Right now, we really, as a team, want to take this opportunity to really narrow our focus, really make our demands clear. Because, like I said, the narrative gets hijacked all the time," Abdullah said.
Vikings owners Mark and Zygi Wilf also released a statement, expressing their support for the players and their message.
"We wholeheartedly support the message Vikings players delivered from U.S. Bank Stadium today and continue to be proud of how they are using their platform to productively and peacefully bring awareness to critical issues of racism and injustice with the goal of creating transformational change," the statement read.
The Wilfs said they're committed to taking action alongside the players in three areas:
- Urging citizens to use their right to vote and increasing voter education and registration
- Supporting the adoption of impactful educational curriculum on racism and Black history
- Advocating for law enforcement and criminal justice reform
"These are not political issues but rather societal issues, and they cannot be transformed through sports alone. We will work to create further opportunities to engage our fans and Minnesotans as we work to end racism and build a community based on equality, empathy and justice," the statement concluded.