The Minnesota Vikings have selected the first recipients of a portion of the team’s $5 million commitment to social justice causes, which was announced in June.
On Sept. 8, the team announced that $1 million will go toward launching and expanding numerous projects in the Twin Cities. The initiatives will focus on three areas: voter education and registration, educational curriculum on racism and Black history, and law enforcement and criminal justice reform.
The inaugural George Floyd Legacy Scholarship, which began with a $125,000 endowment to benefit graduating Black students in the area pursuing post-secondary education, will go to Mimi Kol-Balfour, who is attending Barnard College. She was given the $5,000 award in a video meeting with Vikings President Mark Wilf, general manager Rick Spielman, and members of the team’s social justice committee.
Kol-Balfour had applied for the scholarship with an essay about her plan to fight injustices in her community.
“We want to have an impact and some hope that we’re on the road toward a better future,” Wilf told ESPN. “What better way could you have it than giving a scholarship to someone? We need our young people. They’re going to be part of developing a better future and education is always the key; to turn what happened to George Floyd and all the other tragedies towards a positive where we can support the education of young people.”
The Vikings’ social justice committee, which launched in 2018, is one of 17 that currently exist around the NFL, according to an ESPN story from July. Floyd was killed by police officers on May 25 in Minneapolis, sparking protests of police brutality and calls for change nationwide.
The team is donating $20,000 in personal protective equipment for local polling workers and started a voter education campaign called “Be the Change,” featuring player-led content The organization has its own goal of having 100% of players and staff registered to vote in November.
The Vikings will also participate in and fund a slew of other education initiatives.
Those include expanding their commitment to local nonprofit All Square, which invests in the professional development for formerly incarcerated individuals; hosting conversations with Minnesota high school athletic programs to address issues of race and injustice; continuing involvement with the Hennepin and Ramsey County Juvenile Detention Centers with weekly virtual meetings; and promoting efforts to integrate Black history into mainstream U.S. history and develop courses about the African American experience.
Through a partnership with digital education platform Everfi, the Vikings had already helped implement the company’s 306 Black History curriculum in 12 Minnesota schools, and will now expand it to 24, reaching “thousands” of students. The team will also continue to work with Project Success, a local organization focused on helping students “develop life skills, support and confidence so they are more successful and engaged during high school and more prepared for life after graduation,” according to ESPN.
In 2019, through their partnership with Project Success, the Vikings took 50 students of color from Minneapolis to Washington, D.C. for a visit that included a visit to the National Museum of African American History & Culture — the program will be conducted virtually this fall.