Vikings owner Mark Wilf said he’s encouraged that the NFL and its players union continue having discussions to resolve the hot-button issue of player protests during the national anthem.
“We’re very hopeful that there will be a good resolution in terms of ending up with something that’s positive in the social justice area and the community,” Wilf said Monday at TCO Performance Center.
Wilf deferred further comment to what he told reporters a month ago while supporting the league’s new policy — since tabled — that gave players the option to stay in the locker room during the national anthem but mandated that they stand if they’re on the field. Since then, the NFL Players’ Association filed a grievance, and that led to a joint statement by the NFL and the NFLPA saying that the policy won’t be enforced as the two sides discuss the matter.
The Vikings are one of the few teams that haven’t had a player sit or kneel during the anthem. Last month, Wilf said, “Whatever we do, we’re going to do as a team.” He wouldn’t say what the team would do if a player did protest on the field.
He went on to say last month, “Our players are very respectful — and our ownership, our organization, our franchise — of the military and what that flag means. I can tell you as a son of immigrants I think it’s very important for our ownership. I think we all understand that.”
Last week, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones caused a stir when he broke from the league’s stance on tabling the new policy by saying the Cowboys will mandate that players stand for the anthem.
Asked about Jones’ comments, Wilf said: “We’re just focused here on getting our team ready. We’re encouraged by the fact the players and ownership are meeting. That’s the right way to go about it, to have a constructive dialogue and make something constructive out of this.”
Last month, Wilf announced that Vikings ownership was meeting with players to establish some social justice initiatives as a positive response to the anthem protests. Monday, he said the team is getting close to announcing something.
“We’ve had some good conversations, some good specifics going on,” he said. “But nothing yet to unveil publicly. But we’re confident that what we’re going to do with the players will meet some of the concerns they have in the community, and some things that will really have an impact. We’re looking forward to finalizing it very shortly.”
Wilf also talked about the Vikings’ high expectations and the death of offensive line coach Tony Sparano.
He called Sparano a “special, special person.”
“We’re going to miss him every single day,” Wilf said. “Hopefully, we take the good memories and teachings — he was a great teacher, and what he taught our players and organization will be carried going forward this season and beyond.”
As for those lofty expectations, Wilf said: “Every year, we have high expectations. And this year is no different. Our goals are the same: Win the division, compete and ultimately win a Super Bowl championship. That doesn’t change every year.
“But like the players and coaches have been saying, it’s a one-day-at-a-time process. What you did last year is last year. … There’s a lot of work ahead of us. We know it’s a difficult road.”