As the NFL enters its 100th season and prepares to celebrate the monumental anniversary, the Wilf Family is making a generous gesture to ensure the honoring of its founders.
The Wilf Family Foundations has donated $1 million to the Pro Football Hall of Fame, the Hall announced Tuesday. The gift in part will support the creation of a special "Founders Exhibit," which will commemorate those individuals who helped establish the NFL.
"And that's not just owners, but it's the equipment managers, the trainers, everybody who founded this league – the people who've been forgotten, who showed courage in building this league that is the greatest league in the world with the greatest sport in the world," Hall of Fame President David Baker told Vikings.com. "To have [the Wilf Family Foundations] give such a significant donation of $1 million is incredibly validating and incredibly generous. I hope it makes for a great next hundred years for the National Football League and the Minnesota Vikings."
Vikings Owner/President Mark Wilf emphasized the positive impact that the league has made on him, Owner/Chairman Zygi Wilf and Owner/Vice-Chairman Lenny Wilf, along with their entire family.
"The game of football has brought so much to us … and such great things to the community and to the country and to the world, really. We really wanted to honor the game," Mark Wilf said. "We're donating toward the Founders Exhibit at the Hall, and it's going to honor those people that we are fortunate to build on their great legacy – the people that founded the game and worked and strived to make the game better."
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell held a press conference with media members to close out Tuesday's events, and he responded to the Wilfs' gift.
"I think the Wilfs' generosity in their communities has been exemplary," Goodell said. "They've really shown their generosity, and I think they did that here in this case, where they felt that this was something they wanted to support at the Hall of Fame, and I think it's a wonderful thing. I think it's indicative of the way the Wilfs operate."
Vikings Chief Operating Officer Kevin Warren said that the Wilfs' charitable donation further illustrates that their family is not only focused on philanthropy in general but on the game of football and its impact on the community.
"I think they understand what the game of football has meant to their family … over their lifetime," Warren said. "They're fans of the NFL and really all [that it provides]: the lessons of integrity and honor and respect, and its teamwork and dignity. So to be able to make a donation to the Pro Football Hall of Fame with all of these things in mind is really special."
Baker referenced the United States' 16th President, Abraham Lincoln, who said, "A country that does not honor its heroes will not long endure."
"I think that's probably true of a sport, as well," Baker said of the quote. "For [individuals] like Mark and Lenny and Zygi and, again, Kevin Warren, whose leadership has been so important to this, for [them] to come together and say, 'Hey, we want to honor the past as we pave the way for the future' – they've built such a spectacular stadium there [in Minnesota]; they've built a great team and an organization – but I think they're really standing on the foundation of all those who came before them.
"And for them to have the presence of mind to honor that shows a level of maturity that I think is only going to serve the people of Minnesota going forward," Baker added. "These are great leaders; these are good people."