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Stay Tuned: Vikings and National Anthem

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June 23, 2020

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A sports industry authority, speaking anonymously, said he was told by someone inside the Minnesota Vikings organization the club is expecting some of its players to take a knee during the national anthem if games are played this year despite the COVID-19 pandemic.

Asked how many Vikings may participate in social justice protesting at games, the source said, “More than a couple for sure.” Kneeling players aren’t expected to be fined or disciplined.

With speculation even NFL commissioner Roger Goodell might take a knee in protest over social wrongs and cultural practices, it seems certain there will be controversy at league games this fall with the possibility players from all 32 teams will protest by not standing for the Star Spangled Banner and presentation of the flag. Former Vikings running back Adrian Peterson, now with the Washington Redskins, said via online stories he will “without a doubt” protest by taking a knee.

The Sports Headliners source predicted over 50 percent of Vikings season ticket holders will react negatively to players taking a knee in what those fans view as disrespect for America. He guessed “10 to 15 percent” could end their ticket commitment to the club.

In these controversial and changing times former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick has received more acceptance of late than he ever did in 2016 when he chose not to stand for the national anthem while creating a firestorm of criticism. Former Vikings quarterback Brett Favre, speaking on TMZ Sports last Sunday, compared Kaepernick and the late Pat Tillman, a U.S. Army hero who left the NFL after 9/11 to fight for his country. A national civil rights advocate, Kaepernick supporters contend he was blackballed from the NFL because of his views and willingness to sacrifice a football career for his cause.

That comparison by Favre, including the source it came from, may startle many Americans but there is no predicting who will say what next. A Saturday online story by the New York Post quoted Muhammad Ali’s son as critical of the Black Lives Matter organization and protesters who destroyed property.

Referring to the organization as “racist” for pitting different groups against one another, and describing looters as “devils,” Muhammad Ali Jr. said his famous father would have been disturbed by the violence in America since the brutal death of George Floyd in Minneapolis. “Don’t bust up s–t, don’t trash the place,” he told The Post. “You can peacefully protest. …”

Ali, a Muslim like his father, made it clear in the article he is a supporter of law enforcement. “Not all the police are bad, there’s just a few. There’s a handful of police that are crooked, they should be locked up. I never had a bad scene with a cop. They’ve always been nice and protect me. I don’t have a problem with them.”

Worth Noting

Former Gopher basketball player and now Timberwolves executive John Thomas has a byline story in the current issue of Sports Illustrated about race in his hometown of Minneapolis and across the nation. “…People have a bunch of questions or biases about Black culture,” he told writer Chris Mannix. “Talk about them. Ask. The more we can humanize our approach, the more we can show empathy, the more we can have the right conversations, the better.”

The likelihood now of at least having a 60-game season is a good development for Minnesota Twins DH Nelson Cruz who turns 40 a week from Wednesday. It’s a short list of big leaguers who have ever played at a high level past the age of 40.

When Cruz hit .311 for the Twins last season it was his highest average in the big leagues since his .318 with the Texas Rangers in 2010. His 41 home runs with Minnesota was the third highest total of his MLB career that began in 2005. Known for his dedication in preparing his body and mind to play baseball, Cruz is an outlier but it’s unfortunate he and other big leaguers will see their playing time either reduced to less than half a season in 2020.

Falvey & Levine

The Twins value Cruz for his first season production at the plate in 2019 and also his extraordinary leadership in the clubhouse. The commitment of front office executives Derek Falvey and Thad Levine is influenced, though, by Cruz’s age and the Dominican Republic native has only a one-year deal with the club. The next season or two will show whether Cruz can join a group that includes Ty Cobb, Willie Mays, David Ortiz and Ted Williams who could still terrorize pitchers in their early 40’s.

Cruz made national headlines Sunday night winning the Muhammad Ali Sports Humanitarian Award as part of television’s ESPYS honors. The award, per a statement from the Twins, recognizes an athlete “whose continued, demonstrated leadership has created a measured positive impact on their community through sports.” Cruz has been praised for years in recognition for his charitable work in Latin America and the United States.

Other candidates for the award Cruz won included former Minnesota pro basketball stars Kevin Love and Maya Moore.

The National Football Foundation & College Football Hall of Fame recently announced candidates for the class of 2021 but no former Golden Gophers are on the ballot. Greg Eslinger meets the criteria and should be a candidate after one of the most honored careers for a lineman in Gopher history.

Eslinger won the prestigious Outland and Rimington awards in 2005 for his superb blocking as Minnesota’s center. He was named to two All-American teams in his junior season of 2004, and made six such teams in 2005.

Former national championship and Big Ten title coach Murray Warmath was at Minnesota for 18 seasons. He isn’t in the hall of fame because criteria for coaches includes a winning percentage of .600 or better. His winning percentage was .526.

New co-defensive coordinator Andre Patterson on who is going to be calling the defense during games: “It’s up to the boss (head coach Mike Zimmer).”

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David Shama

David Shama is a former sports editor and columnist with local publications. His writing and reporting experiences include covering the Minnesota Vikings, Minnesota Twins, Minnesota Timberwolves and Minnesota Gophers. Shama’s career experiences also include sports marketing. He is the former Marketing Director of the Minnesota North Stars of the NHL. He is also the former Marketing Director of the United States Tennis Association’s Northern Section. A native of Minneapolis, Shama has been part of the community his entire life. He is a graduate of the University of Minnesota where he majored in journalism. He also has a Master’s degree in education from the University of St. Thomas. He was a member of the Governor’s NBA’s Task Force to help create interest in bringing pro basketball to town in the 1980s.

(1) Reader Comment

  1. avatar
    Ken
    June 23, 2020 at 1:35 pm

    The National Anthem dilemma..... Play the National Anthem before the teams come out on the field.

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