Mark Wilf: Vikings' organization, ownership supports player efforts to protest racism

We don’t know what the Minnesota Vikings will do Sunday during the National Anthem to protest racism and social injustice, but it’s a safe bet if they take a knee or raise a fist, they’ll do it collectively.

Vikings President Mark Wilf said Monday the organization and ownership team will give full support in whatever they do. Sunday’s game against the Green Bay Packers at U.S. Bank Stadium will mark the first football game in Minneapolis since the death of George Floyd on Memorial Day. The incident resulted in the firing of four Minneapolis police officers, and Derek Chauvin facing murder charges.

“We’ve been consistent as an ownership, as an organization, we’ve been consistent in supporting our players’ right to peacefully bring awareness to issues that are important to them,” Wilf said. We’re also extremely proud of the fact that we’ve worked for years now with our players, with our coaches and really trying to use the platform of the Vikings to make positive change in our society.”

The Vikings will likely join many teams around the NFL in some form of protest over police brutality and social injustice. Tensions in Minneapolis were at a new high after Floyd’s death, and recent events in Kenosha, Wis., with Jacob Blake added fuel to the fire. In recent years, they've locked arms on the sideline during the National Anthem.

After Minnesota’s first practice at U.S. Bank Stadium, the team talked about its motivation to get players and people registered to vote in November, called for the fair prosecution of Chauvin in Floyd’s death and encouraging education on racism and Black history.

Wilf said the Vikings offered up U.S. Bank Stadium as a polling location in November, but polling places had already been determined by that point.

Wilf on Monday also addressed expectations for the 2020 season, extending coach Mike Zimmer and General Manager Rick Spielman together as well as keeping Kirk Cousins in Minnesota. Every new season brings high hopes, and Wilf didn’t shy away from the ownership’s hopes of winning a Super Bowl.

“Everybody knows you’re only judged by your wins and losses. That’s a fine line we judge every day. Our goal is to get to the playoffs, achieve sustained success and keep knocking at that door. Eventually that door will come down,” Wilf said.

Zimmer was entering the final season of his current contract after leading the Vikings to their third playoff appearance in six seasons. Spielman was also entering uncertain times, but both agreed to extensions that now have them leading the Vikings through the 2023 season.

Since Spielman and Zimmer became a general manager/head coach duo in 2014, the Vikings are 57-38-1 with two NFC North Division titles and two playoff wins. The Vikings were a win over Philadelphia away in 2018 from being the first Super Bowl host city to play in the biggest game in sports.

“We feel real good about our football team and coach Zimmer and Rick have done an outstanding job bringing the right kind of players, working well together and getting the best team possible on the field,” Wilf said. “We feel very strongly with this leadership that we can get the job done.”

Their other move at the start of free agency was signing Cousins to an extension. He agreed to two-year deal at about $66 million after throwing 26 touchdown passes last year, and earning his first career playoff win as a starting quarterback.

Cousins has 56 touchdowns and just 16 interceptions in his first two seasons with the Vikings.

“Kirk is a critical part of our team, he’s a leader in our locker room. His play has really demonstrated warranting that kind of move, so on all fronts we were very supportive,” Wilf said. “That made all the sense in the world to go forward that way.”

After an off-season filled with uncertainty and virtual preparation due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the 2020 season kicks off Sunday against the Packers. It will have a far different feel for the division rivals, with no fans in the seats.

Fans can purchase fatheads of their likeness to be placed in seats, but there won’t be actual people at the game other than coaches and players. State guidelines mandate that there can’t be indoor public gatherings of more than 250 people. As the Vikings schedule currently stands, only their Week 2 game at Indianapolis will have fans in the building.

Wilf said the team has detailed plans in place if and when they can have fans in the building.

“We want to do everything with safety and health in mind. That’s what we’re guided by, that’s the reality we’re in. We do have a plan in place, that is our goal to get fans back in the stadium,” Wilf said.