MINNEAPOLIS, MN: New Minnesota Vikings owner Zygi Wilf is trying to make up for a sluggish start and allegations of sexual misconduct among his players with a series of apologetic gestures aimed at fans.
On October 6, as many as 17 players from the NFL team boarded a private boat where some members allegedly performed lewd acts in plain sight. The incident has lingered in the sports pages and local headlines ever since, and a police investigation is under way.
Wilf, who bought the team four months ago, confronted the issue immediately. He threatened harsh discipline to those found complicit, arranged to meet immediately with NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue, said he would adopt a new code of conduct, and personally addressed the team.
Lester Bagley, VP of public affairs, characterized Wilf's position: "If you don't want to live up to these standards, you shouldn't play here regardless of whether you are an MVP or a reserve."
Bagley said Wilf also made himself available to the local print media and the AP immediately, and reached out to the governor, legislators, and corporate sponsors.
Zilf also tried to rally the front-office staff.
"When we bought this team, we looked at everyone here as family. Sometimes a family member does something wrong, and you have to weather it," Zilf said, according to Bagley.
He spent the week after the incident speaking to fans in various Minnesota towns, addressing the issue head-on. The speaking engagements were set up before the incident to bolster support for a new stadium.
"Our standing in the community has been impacted and stadium efforts have taken a backseat," Begley said. "It will take time and effort to get over this, but we believe we're on the way."