Ladies and gentlemen, your team with no basic humanity: the Minnesota Vikings.
Vikings wideout Troy Williamson’s grandmother died last week; she had raised him. At the same time his brother has been in the hospital, going in and out of a coma. And so Williamson did what anyone would do: he made funeral arrangements. He booked a ticket home to say goodbye to his grandmother and be with his ailing brother. And because of all of that, he told the Vikings that he’d have to miss a game in order to support his family.
A reasonable request, and one that people make every day. Most companies allow for bereavement leave of a few days to attend the funeral of a close relative. After all, an employee isn’t going to be in their right mind when dealing with the death of a loved one, and besides it’s seen as a decent and human thing to do. We’re all going to lose loved ones over the course of our lives. Only someone with no basic humanity would object to such a request.
Yes, the Vikings responded to Williamson’s request by docking him a game check — $25,588, based on his salary. That’s the same penalty that they imposed on Fred Smoot and Bryant McKinnie after the infamous “Love Boat” scandal — one game check.
Those guys were engaged in lewd behavior in public. Williamson was burying his grandma.
According to the St. Paul Pioneer Press, Williamson said, “I don’t care if they would have [taken] my pay for the rest of the year, I was going home.”
Coach Brad Childress referred to the decision as a “business principle.” Well, it is, sort of: the principle that the business that is the Minnesota Vikings does not care a whit for its employees; that they view someone who is grieving and unable to play as no better than someone cited for lewd conduct; that they don’t give a damn about their employees unless they’re punching the clock.
As all Vikings fans know, Troy Williamson hasn’t exactly lived up to his draft spot. He’s a really fast guy with hands of stone and the pass-catching instincts of defensive lineman Pat Williams. But that doesn’t mean he’s a bad guy, and by all accounts he’s worked pretty hard to improve, despite the fact that he hasn’t.
And even if he was a malcontent, it wouldn’t justify throwing him under the bus for taking care of his family.
This next off season, like always, the Vikings will go out and try to convince free agents to sign with the team. It seems to me that a free agent choosing between the Vikings and any other team would choose any other team. After all, the Vikings have now made clear that they view their people as just another cog in the machine. And that would certainly make me think twice before working for them.
Vikings owner Zygi Wilf promised a new era of accountability when he purchased the team. He promised to move the team away from the scandal-plagued era that preceded his tenure. But it’s not just the players that need to perform in a decent manner. Once again, the Vikings have proven themselves to be a dysfunctional organization with priorities that are completely out of whack. This time, though, it’s management putting itself above the team, and the people who work for it. You’ll excuse me if I don’t cheer the change.