MINNEAPOLIS – Eric Kendricks woke up distressed shortly after George Floyd was killed just a few miles from the stadium where the Minnesota Vikings play.
Kendricks, the All-Pro inside linebacker who has mostly stayed out of the spotlight during his first five seasons in the NFL, was “super emotional” enough that he took to his Twitter account to call out the league for what he and many of his peers saw as inaction on social justice issues.
A few days later, Kendricks participated in a video compiled by several high-profile players voicing concern about what they felt has been suppression from the league since quarterback Colin Kaepernick began kneeling during the national anthem before games in 2016. Commissioner Roger Goodell issued an apology the day after for “not listening” earlier and encouraged players to speak up and peacefully protest.
“Using my platform wasn’t just to apply pressure to them. It was to apply pressure for people around me. It was to apply pressure to myself,” Kendricks said.
For the Vikings, like their fellow Twin Cities sports figures, the death of Floyd hit close to home. It has also, naturally, spurred a surge of action.
The handcuffed black man's neck was pressed by the knee of white Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin — for several minutes even after he stopped moving and pleading for air — into the pavement on Chicago Avenue on May 25. That's the same street that travels directly in front of the gleaming glass doors of U.S. Bank Stadium.
“I’m a child of the '60s, OK? So this has been going on my whole life,” said Vikings co-defensive coordinator Andre Patterson, adding: “But this is the reason why this one’s different, because the whole world got to see life leave that man’s body.”
Kendricks and Patterson are part of a social justice committee the Vikings formed three years ago with the blessing of owners Zygi Wilf and Mark Wilf, brothers who are the sons of Holocaust survivors. The Wilfs announced a new $5 million commitment to organizations fighting hate, racism and inequality. The social justice committee endowed $125,000 for a scholarship in Floyd's name to be awarded annually to black graduating high school seniors in Minneapolis and St. Paul pursuing post-secondary education.