In more than three weeks since the NFL enacted a new anthem policy that managed to cause more problems than it solved, teams and owners and league officials generally have managed to keep their heads low and their mouths shut on the topic.
For the Vikings, the subject became unavoidable on Friday, because the team publicly cut the ribbon on its swanky new training facility.
Via the Minneapolis Star Tribune, owner Mark Wilf expressed support for the new anthem policy, and he explained that the organization remains on the same page.
“Whatever we do, we’re going to do as a team,” Mark Wilf said. “That involves working on social justice issues, hearing from the players and really partnering with them. We’ve been in the process of having those conversations to do some great things in the community as they have done for many years, but more focused on some of the social justice issues that are of concern to them. We look forward to advancing some of the great things we do in the community.”
The inescapable message is that the Vikings will stand for the anthem as a team. Reinforcing that message are recent comments from coach Mike Zimmer, who (as he usually does) made his position clear.
“I think it’s important we stand for the anthem,” Zimmer said at the time. “A lot of people have died for that flag. That flag represents our country and what we stand for.”
“Our players are very respectful — and our ownership, our organization, our franchise — of the military and what that flag means,” Wilf said Friday. “I can tell you as a son of immigrants I think it’s very important for our ownership. I think we all understand that. We’re in a good place on all this and we just look forward to really working together.”
Immigrants or not, the core of the debate continues to be whether conscientious player protests during the anthem aimed at bringing attention to legitimate societal concerns constitute disrespect of the flag, the anthem, or the military. Friday’s remarks make it clear where the Vikings stand as an organization. Come September, the question will be whether any of the 53 players on the roster feel comfortable bucking the internal position on the issue by staying in the locker room or by daring to defy the new policy.
Assuming, of course, that the new policy hasn’t been overturned by then, either by an arbitrator or by a judge.