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Vikings, Colts players address media on social justice issues with backing of organizational leadership

The Minnesota Vikings' ownership and organization is standing firm behind its players' message delivered from the end zone at U.S. Bank Stadium.

Vikings co-owners Mark and Zygi Wilf released a statement on behalf of the organization backing statements made Friday by Vikings players Anthony Harris, Kyle Rudolph and Ameer Abdullah. The last of those three players listed spoke first and delivered his message with breathless passion, expressing a desire to do everything in the power of he and his teammates to end systemic racism and police brutality.

"I think right now we really as a team want to take this opportunity to really narrow our focus, really make our demands clear," Abdullah said. "Because like I said the narrative gets high-jacked all the time. As a team what we want starting here in the city of Minneapolis which has been the epicenter of a lot of the tragedies that started this year. Really started with Ahmaud Arbery in Georgia, but really took off with George Floyd here in Minneapolis. We want proper prosecution of Derek Chauvin, the police officer that kneeled on George Floyd's neck for 8 minutes along with the other officers. That's all we want. Just to start there. 

"As a social justice coalition, as a group, and as a team, as an organization, we're doing everything we can to build sustainable programs that will help the long-term effects of the lack of economic progress in low-income areas, the lack of mental health support in some of these areas," Abdullah continued. "We're doing everything that we can, but now it's on the bureaucratic system to also meet our intensity, to meet our level of what we're demanding because it only goes so far. It's a two-way street."

Vikings ownership followed suit with its statement.

"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 Wilfs said in the statement. "We are angered and distressed by the continued horrendous acts of violence against members of the Black community, most recently the shooting of Jacob Blake.

"Together with the players, we are committed to taking action in three initial areas: 1) urging citizens to use their right to vote and increasing voter education and registration; 2) supporting the adoption of impactful educational curriculum on racism and Black history; and 3) 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."

Earlier Friday, Indianapolis Colts players stood together and delivered their message through two players -- one being quarterback Jacoby Brissett -- coach Frank Reich and general manager Chris Ballard.

"We're hurt because we feel the pain of not only our Black teammates but our Black community," Brissett said. "We understand that we have to use our platform not only individually but collectively as an organization.

"We want it to be known that yesterday wasn't a day off. It wasn't just a day for us to go home and say we didn't practice. For us, yesterday was a full work day. Obviously, it got out regarding our efforts to get everyone here registered to vote, in which we had 100 percent participation. But we used it as a day to reflect on those Zoom calls we had this offseason, to reflect on the emotions we endured and those conversations that we all pledged to help not only uplift our teammates, but our community."

The organization's message and plan to effect change included four points of focus moving forward: voting registration and accessibility, community-police engagement, fighting food scarcity, and education.

"Within these maps, they aren't wants, needs and requests," Brissett said. "They are demands and commands that we plan to stand by."

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