MINNEAPOLIS — A week after George Floyd died while in custody of the Minneapolis Police Department, an incident that sparked mass protests in the Twin Cities and across the nation, two Minnesota Vikings linebackers are speaking out in response to a statement issued by the NFL on Saturday.
The league’s statement expressed condolences to the Floyd family; Breonna Taylor, who was shot and killed by Louisville Metro Police Department officers in March; and Ahmaud Arbery, whose February death is being investigated as a federal hate crime.
In the statement, the NFL addressed its commitment to using its platform “in communities and as part of the fabric of American society” and added “we embrace that responsibility and are committed to continuing the important work to address these systemic issues together with our players, clubs and partners.”
Vikings linebackers Eric Kendricks and Anthony Barr, who are on the team’s social justice committee, issued identical tweets denouncing the league’s stance.
“Your statement said nothing,” both tweets read. “Your league is built on black athletes. Vague answers do nothing. Let the players know what you’re ACTUALLY doing. And we know what silence means.”
Carolina Panthers linebacker Shaq Thompson responded to Kendricks’ tweet:
We want answers @NFL https://t.co/7kPbWD0s7V
— Shaq Thompson (@ShaqThompson_7) June 2, 2020
The two linebackers went on to issue the same series of four tweets encouraging interaction with fans and others on social media to bring ideas to the table for how the Vikings organization can best support the Twin Cities area after last week’s tragic events.
“The Vikings have opened dialogue with players and we’re all working towards solutions with the team,” they said. “… If anyone has suggestions for how to support the city, we’d love to hear them. Our team doesn’t just want to donate — we want to work with local organizations and get out there to help facilitate change. … But we want answers at the league level. That’s where change can happen, and we’ve seen none. Because right now, it seems like nothing. And nothing is unacceptable.
“You can’t bring in people to teach us how we should interact with police but not work towards changing the behavior of the police themselves. Silence will not make this go away.”
The Vikings are discussing methods for how to best support the Twin Cities with cleanup efforts and other charitable causes. Tight end Kyle Rudolph and a handful of other players are organizing a food drive that will take place in the Minneapolis area on Friday.
Rudolph has also been an active member of the Vikings’ social justice committee, which was formed two years ago and aims to provide school supplies and scholarships in low-income communities, work with community organizations and juvenile detention centers, provide legal aid and improve relations between law enforcement officers and the areas they serve.
Vikings coach Mike Zimmer issued a statement on Floyd’s death Tuesday.
“Peaceful protests can help bring change, and we definitely need change so we can all live in harmony,” he said as part of his statement. “Everyone needs to respect each other’s ideas and work together to strengthen, not weaken, our community. I believe our football team is an example of how people from all different backgrounds and experiences can come together for a common goal.”
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