Minnesota Vikings tight end Kyle Rudolph remembers growing up in Cincinnati and the turmoil that hit his city as an 11-year-old when an unarmed black teenager, Timothy Thomas, 19, was shot and killed by police in 2001.
Rudolph couldn’t imagine seeing his community go through the same thing 20 years later, but after the death of George Floyd on Memorial Day, many of the same problems that plague the country still exist.
“I never would have imagined, 20 years after that, we would be going through it again and I want to do everything I can so 20 years from now — when my kids are in their 20s — that they’re still not a part of this fight and it’s something we’ve changed,” he said. “Whatever we have to do moving forward, I hope we can do it and be a spark to help make change.”
Rudolph, along with Josh Okogie from the Minnesota Timberwolves and head coach of the University of Minnesota Gophers football team P.J. Fleck organized a food distribution drive at the Cub Foods off East Lake Street and Minnehaha Avenue in south Minneapolis on Friday to help the community in a time of need.
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Support on Lake Street
A week ago, East Lake Street was in flames as a result of the frustration and pain Minneapolis felt following the death of Floyd.
Rudolph and several other organizers drove around Minneapolis on Monday assessing what they can do to have the biggest impact and found that East Lake Street was already beginning to heal just days after the police precinct and several businesses were left in rubble. The streets were cleaned and the Target across the parking lot was given a coat of fresh paint.
“One of the great things about living in this community is [the work] was already done,” he said. “While we were out asking ‘what’s the biggest need? How can we help?’ they’re putting it back together.”
The premise of the food distribution drive was to provide immediate aid in groceries, diapers, medicine and other essentials along with medical consultation, music, ice cream and free hot food to further the community’s healing. Volunteers all wore t-shirts that said, “Change Starts With Me.”
And while Friday’s aid was in the form of a care package, Rudolph is determined to make it a commitment.
“This can’t just be, ‘Hey, one time, come stop by, we’ll give you some free food and essential goods and then you’re on your own,” he said. “If we’re going to change the community, it can’t just be a flash in the pan. It has to be something we do for years to come.”
Sustainability Both In & Outside the Locker Room
The Vikings canceled all virtual team activities on Thursday to give players the freedom to attend Floyd’s memorial service. A dozen Vikings showed up to represent the organization and their teammates that are still out-of-state due to coronavirus.
Rudolph referred to owners Mark and Zygi Wilf’s family history — as descendants of Holocaust survivors — and that social justice has consistently been an objective of the franchise.
“We’ve had these conversations for years,” he said. “That’s one of the things I love about the organizations that I play for.”
He felt the Vikings locker room can set an example of “what society should be like.”
“You have people from all walks of life all backgrounds that come together put our differences aside and work towards a common goal,” Rudolph said. “I feel like we could be a great example to our community and to the world and what better way of showing that than coming out here and supporting our community together.”
Teammates Adam Thielen, Danielle Hunter, Chad Beebe, Cameron Smith, Dakota Dozier, Aviante Collins, Garrett Bradbury and Jake Browning helped with the drive.
Rudolph’s biggest takeaway from Floyd’s memorial service was that now is the perfect time to make a change and Friday’s event was a step towards that.
“I think today is a perfect example of that. You see people from all walks of life — people that are affected by racism and people that are not — but yet everyone wants to make a difference… I don’t know if that happened 20 years ago and I think that’s the difference now from 20 years ago,” he said. “If we can sustain this and continue to support and be a change, our kids won’t be dealing with this in the future.”
Follow Trevor Squire on Twitter: @trevordsquire