A dozen Vikings players attended a memorial service for George Floyd at North Central University in downtown Minneapolis on Thursday. Counting coaches and other employees, the organization had roughly 30 people at the event showing their support for Floyd's family and honoring his memory.
To accommodate those who wanted to attend, the Vikings cancelled virtual meetings on Thursday and closed business for all employees at noon.
Adam Thielen, Kyle Rudolph, Alexander Mattison, Mike Hughes, Garrett Bradbury, Tajae Sharpe, Tyler Conklin, Chad Beebe, Jake Browning, Dakota Dozier, Cameron Smith, and Aviante Collins were the players in attendance. It's worth noting that many players are not in the Twin Cities area at this time because of the unique circumstances of this offseason. Kirk Cousins, for example, has been staying with his family at his parents' house in Orlando.
The group was organized by Rudolph and Mattison, according to the Star Tribune. They met at U.S. Bank Stadium and made the short walk to the service, which began at 1 p.m. central time. Gophers football coach P.J. Fleck and Timberwolves guard Josh Okogie were also in attendance, as were local politicians and notable civil rights leaders.
During the service for Floyd, who was killed last week by Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, a eulogy was given by Rev. Al Sharpton. He closed his remarks by directing everyone in attendance to stand in silence for 8 minutes and 46 seconds, which was the exact amount of time that Chauvin had his knee on the back of Floyd's neck.
"That was definitely one powerful atmosphere," Mattison told Vikings.com. "It was like no other that I've felt in my life, the power that I felt in that room. His family was able to give their testimony for how great of a man he was, and it's sad to see how a life was taken. Al Sharpton really hit home with me about how our time is now. The time is now for change. We're going to continue to talk about it and figure out ways to make that change as a team and people of this community."
Rudolph, who is the longest-tenured member of the Vikings and known for being active in the Twin Cities community, explained why the team felt strongly about showing up to pay their respects.
“I felt like it was important [for us to be there],” Rudolph told the Star Tribune. “This is our community. This is our home. I stand for what’s right and I’m against what’s wrong.”
Mattison expressed similar sentiments.
"I think it was something that we collectively as a group understood, especially having the dynamic of our locker room, that we wanted to show up," Mattison said. "We're a team that people in this community look up to and look at in Minnesota, especially in Minneapolis. We're fortunate to play there, so we wanted to make a statement that we're behind this, and also show our love and support. We were all out there because we know it's a tough time in this world, and we wanted to show our love and support as a team."
Hundreds of people gathered in two spots – outside of North Central and near Cup Foods in south Minneapolis, the site of Floyd's death – to hear a broadcast of the service.
Floyd's death sparked protests in Minneapolis and across the country, some of which turned violent and destructive. But Thursday's service was all about honoring Floyd's memory and turning the focus to how change can be made in this country. There will be two more services for Floyd in different locations: one in his native North Carolina on Saturday, and one on Monday in Houston, where he spent most of his life.
Chauvin has been charged with second-degree murder, and the other four cops on the scene have been charged with aiding and abetting.
Rudolph and Okogie are hosting a drop-off and pickup of supplies at the Cub Foods (2850 26th Ave S) in south Minneapolis from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Friday.
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