MINNEAPOLIS –Thirty-five years after Hall of Fame defensive tackle Alan Page stepped away from football, and less than a year after retiring from the Minnesota Supreme Court, Page hasn't retired from making a difference.
During his impressive run with the Vikings (1967-78), Page made nine Pro Bowl appearances, helped lead the Vikings to four Super Bowls and earned a law degree.
Page hung up his cleats in 1981 after three-plus seasons with Chicago and exchanged his jersey for a judicial robe when he was elected to the Minnesota Supreme Court in 1992. Page diligently served until 2015, when he reached the mandatory retirement age of 70.
He has no plans to slow his work in the community, however.
To mark his retirement, Justice Page has launched a new effort to build awareness of ethics and the elimination of bias in the law, matters that will shape our legal community now and in the future.
"Somewhere along the way, I developed the sense that, given all the good things that have happened to me, I have the opportunity – and some obligation – to at least try to help other people achieve the same kind of successes that I've had," Page said. "It's something that's really just internal – not something that I can really put a finger on, other than, there are so many good things that have happened to me – both on the football field and off – that I just feel the opportunity presents itself, and you have to take advantage of it."
Page held an "Elimination of Bias" seminar Friday, a 3-hour course that offered attendees a CLE (continuing legal education) credit. The event benefitted the Page Education Foundation, established by Page and his wife, Diane, in 1988 to mark Page's induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
The Page Education Foundation has grown and developed over the past 28 years. Today, the foundation awards scholarships to more than 500 students of color each year for their post-secondary education at Minnesota colleges and universities.
The seminar developed from the findings of a task force report issued by the Minnesota Supreme Court in 1993 that indicated that racial bias existed in the judicial branch of government.
According to studies cited in the report, white defendants were more likely to receive a summons and avoid being arrested than people of color. Another study from 2012 stated that a black individual is more than 20 times more likely to be stopped for a traffic offense than a white individual. In the same document, a statistic from **the Council on Crime and Justice** showed Minnesota to have the greatest black-to-white disparity in imprisonment rates (25:1).
"It seems fundamentally wrong when the one branch of government that is designed to ensure equal justice denies a certain class of people precisely what it's here for," Page said.
Over the past 23 years, Page has been heavily involved in efforts to implement the recommendations from that task force report and build awareness. Those recommendations called for action in the following ways:
- Provide educational opportunities to promote cultural competency and address unconscious bias.
- Create organizational environments conducive to the discussion of racial disparities and bias.
- Encourage more judicial approach for low-level offenses by law enforcement, i.e. following citation process versus making an arrest.
- Collect more data in order to shed additional light and spread awareness of underlying causes of bias and disparity.
"We've made a little progress," Page said. "But we have a long, long way to go. This continuing education program is just one more step in that."
View photos of Pro Football Hall of Famer and Vikings Ring of Honor member, Alan Page, who celebrates his birthday on August 7.
The Minnesota Vikings acted as the primary sponsor for Friday's event. Page said the partnership between the Page Education Foundation and his former team is significant.
"When I stop and think about the fact that the Vikings have sponsored this event, what it means to the Page Education Foundation, what it means to me as a person, as a former Viking – to have that support and have the organization behind me, it's pretty special," Page said.
Vikings Chief Operating Office Kevin Warren attended and said the team was "honored and thrilled to participate as a sponsor … in conjunction with the Page Education Foundation."
"It reiterates and clearly articulates really what Justice Page stands for as a man, what his career was all about and his true, honest desire to make the world a better place," Warren said.
Warren was pleased to see the attendance at the first seminar and said the Vikings look forward to a longstanding relationship as a key sponsor for the event.
"The potential of this seminar is incredible," Warren said. "We're just very grateful that [Page] was – and still is – a Minnesota Viking. He's part of the Vikings family, and we're just honored to stand alongside him to continually make the world a better place to live."
Page's goal for Friday's event was to build an awareness of understanding of problems that exist and motivate members of Minnesota's legal system to act for change. Page hoped that attendees would leave with something more than just their CLE credit.
"At the end of the day, we hope that people will take what they hear to heart and be a part of the change that will eliminate bias," Page said. "And, quite frankly, not just in our legal system but in the world around us generally.
"It has to start somewhere," Page added. "Ultimately, it has to start with each of us. We all play a role in creating it and continuing it, and we all have to play a role in eliminating it."