​​​​​​​Vikings Pro Bowl linebacker Eric Kendricks has a leadership role on the team’s social justice committee

Kendricks says "we want to work with local organizations and get out there and facilitate change."

Jeff Diamond
June 05, 2020 - 8:13 pm
Eric Kendricks

Hannah Foslien / Getty Images


On Vikings/NFL beat--Kendricks tweets on social justice, Vikings players attend Floyd memorial service, Brees apologizes for insensitive comments

By Jeff Diamond, former Vikings GM who co-hosted Monday Night Purple and Purple Sunday Postgame last season on News Talk 830 WCCO along with WCCO’s NFL Draft coverage.

Vikings Pro Bowl linebacker Eric Kendricks has a leadership role on the team’s social justice committee. He tweeted his feelings this week about the current situation after the death of George Floyd by saying the Vikings “have opened a dialogue with players and we’re all working toward solutions with the team.”

Kendricks followed by asking for suggestions from Twin Cities residents on ways the team can support the city. “Our team doesn’t just want to donate—we want to work with local organizations and get out there and facilitate change.”

Kendricks also challenged the league office to be more specific on “actual steps to support the fight for justice and system reform.” He added, “Let the players know what you’re actually doing.” And Kendricks along with teammate Anthony Barr participated in a video with several other NFL players calling for the NFL to condemn racial inequality.

The NFL announced Thursday that it will commit an additional $20 million for programs and initiatives that address systemic racism. The league’s statement said, “This is a time of self-reflection for all—the NFL is no exception. We stand with the black community because Black Lives Matter. We will continue using our platform to challenge the injustice around us.” 

During a difficult time in our country with the issues of police treatment of minorities, it’s important that pro athletes such as Kendricks, Barr and Josh Okogie of the Timberwolves show leadership on this critical issue by speaking out. Okogie recently told the media, “This is the perfect place to make change. I feel that I can’t be silent anymore and I want to do all in my power to help. Everybody has to fight for each other. We’re never safe. We never have a fair playing field.”

It’s also been good to see so many of the local sports teams issuing statements supporting the Floyd family, condemning Floyd’s “tragic and senseless death” as the Twins statement said and saying as the Vikings did that “Everyone is our community deserves the right to feel protected and safe.”

A strong contingent of Vikings players showed support for the family of George Floyd and the community by attending Floyd’s private memorial service in Minneapolis on Thursday. Players attending included Chad Beebe, Garrett Bradbury, Jake Browning, Aviante Collins, Tyler Conklin, Dakota Dozier, Mike Hughes, Alexander Mattison, Kyle Rudolph, Tajae Sharpe, Cameron Smith and Adam Thielen.

“We’re a team that people in this community look up to,” Mattison said. “We’re fortunate to play there (in Minneapolis) so we wanted to make a statement that we’re behind this. We were all out there because we know it’s a tough time in this world, and we wanted to show our love and support as a team.”  

Nationally, the big story involving pro athletes’ social justice statements surrounds Saints quarterback Drew Brees and the aftermath of his comments on players kneeling during the national anthem to bring awareness to social injustice. Brees was criticized by teammates and players around the league and in other sports after saying he “will never agree with anybody disrespecting the flag of the United States.”  Many athletes have repeatedly said the kneeling was not about disrespecting the flag or the military but instead about police mistreatment of minorities.

Brees apologized to “anyone I hurt with my comments.” He added, “In an attempt to talk about respect, unity and solidarity centered around the American flag and the national anthem, I made comments that were insensitive and completely missed the mark on the issues we are facing right now as a country. They lacked awareness and any kind of empathy. Instead, those words have become divisive and hurtful and have misled people into believing that somehow I am the enemy. This could not be further from the truth, and is not an accurate reflection of my heart or my character.”

Around the NFL Observations:

1.In a positive pandemic-related sign, the NFL announced that coaches will now be allowed back into team facilities if cities and states allow it. According to a memo the league sent to teams, the hope is “some players could return on a limited basis” before the end of the offseason program that is currently scheduled to conclude on June 26. Rookies and free agent signees who are new to a team probably will be the first players able to report. The NFL allowed teams to begin reopening facilities two weeks ago--in areas where it’s allowed--to non-coaching and non-playing personnel along with injured players undergoing rehab.

2. Highlights among NFL rule changes coming out of the owners’ virtual league meeting: the controversial one-year pass interference replay review rule was not approved for this season so we’re back to all pass interference calls being made by the on-field officials; the proposal to allow a 4th & 15 play in lieu of an onside kick for a team trailing late in a game was considered too radical and voted down, and teams will now be able to have three players (instead of two) return from injured reserve during the regular season.

Jeff Diamond was the NFL Executive of the Year in 1998 after the Vikings' 15-1 season. He also is former president of the Tennessee Titans. He does sports/business consulting, media and speaking work including corporate and college speaking on Negotiation, Management, Leadership and Sports Business--contact him at diamondj4@comcast receiver off

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