On Wednesday, May 8, Star Tribune columnist Jon Tevlin wrote a piece entitled "Kluwe made an impact on, off the field," in which he provides his point of view on the Vikings release of Chris Kluwe and, specifically, the Vikings involvement in the Twin Cities community. Below is a response penned by Jeff Anderson, Vikings Director of Corporate Communications, and sent to Tevlin via e-mail on Wednesday afternoon.
After reading your column titled, “Kluwe made an impact on, off the field,” within which I certainly agree regarding Chris’ positive effect on the Minnesota community, I question your assumptions about other Vikings players’ community involvement. In your piece you indicate the majority of players only participate in charitable causes by letting an organization “use the player’s name or agreeing to the occasional photo op.” You also note, “Rare is the pro athlete who commits real time, or heaven forbid money, to the charity or issue.” As it relates to the Vikings, neither of those comments has any merit. In fact, the opposite is true; we are fortunate to have individuals throughout the organization, including numerous players, who are committed to giving time and/or money to various causes in our community.
In case you aren’t aware, I want to provide you with a few facts about the Vikings community outreach:
1) Player Participation - In six of the seven years, the Vikings have had 100% participation in the team’s community outreach program. It is a point of emphasis from the Wilf ownership and Coach Frazier that all of our players, coaches and front office staff get involved in the community.
2) Personal Foundations/Causes – Various players have their own personal foundations or causes, including
3) Vikings Children’s Fund – Since 1978, the VCF has donated nearly $10 million dollars to helping children and families in Minnesota and the Upper Midwest. Since the Wilfs took ownership of the team, the contributions have increased by nearly 90%. Over the last eight years since 2005, the VCF has averaged annual contributions of approximately $465,000 (over $3.8 million). In the 27 years prior to the Wilf ownership, the team’s contributions averaged approximately $245,000 annually.
4) Annual Playground Build – The Vikings Playground Build has become an annual tradition for the team, beginning as an ownership initiative in 2006. The team has completed seven annual builds, replacing playgrounds at elementary schools serving more than 3,000 students, and will complete its eighth at the end of this month.
5) Summer Lunch Program – The Vikings partner with Second Harvest Heartland to help feed underserved children during the summer months when they are not able to receive free or reduced-price lunches through the school. Over the last three summers, the Vikings have helped serve nearly 3,000,000 meals to underserved children.
6) Vikings Fitness Playbook – Last year the team partnered with the University of Minnesota Amplatz Children’s Hospital to kick off a campaign to research childhood obesity. That partnership aligns with the team’s other “Play 60” initiatives, which include the “Fuel Up to Play 60” partnership with the Midwest Dairy Association and the United Way partnership that brings assemblies to elementary schools throughout the state.
7) Vikings Youth Football Program – The team provides free youth football clinics every year, selects 10 High School Coaches of the Week and puts together an annual All-State Team to be recognized during a Vikings game. Through the NFL Grassroots program, the team has also contributed $650,000 to replace or repair four area football fields.
8) Saturday Special Guests – The Vikings invite individuals facing a challenging time in their life to a private Saturday practice followed by a meet and greet with the team. Last season’s visits included children from the University of Minnesota Amplatz Children’s Hospital, the Make-A-Wish Foundation and other organizations/individuals.
I also want to personally invite you to the Vikings mini-camp in June, where I am happy to introduce you to many of the players who have their own foundations. Perhaps then you will better understand the passion that several Vikings players have for giving back and the significant impact their efforts – and those of the entire organization - have on our community.
Please let me know if you would like to attend, and I will follow up with additional details.