MINNEAPOLIS -- As the Twin Cities community gathers itself, rebuilds and sets out on the mission of dismantling and rethinking the systems steeped in the historic racism that led to the death of George Floyd while in police custody and the loss of countless other black lives, the Pohlad family, longtime owners of the Minnesota Twins, set about figuring out how they could help effect meaningful change.
Translating those family conversations into action, the Pohlad Family Foundation began conducting outreach to its network of community leaders to figure out how it could most productively be part of this process. As part of that work, the Pohlad Family Foundation announced Wednesday that it will commit $25 million to racial justice, focused on rebuilding impacted communities and pushing for long-term structural change.
"Black people have experienced oppression and racism for far too long in this country," said Bill Pohlad, president of the Pohlad Family Foundation, in a statement. "We condemn racism in all its forms, and we are firmly committed to helping to enact meaningful change. We know this will take time and effort, and we are committed to this work beyond this seminal moment in our country's history."
Susan Bass Roberts, the vice president and executive director of the Pohlad Family Foundation, emphasized that this is a long-term commitment to the community, with much work to be done and no set end date that can be put on helping to meaningfully change an unbalanced system rooted in centuries of inequality and oppression. But the foundation is in this for the long haul.
"I think that we feel a great responsibility, and we see it as an opportunity and a responsibility to play a role in this," said Joe Pohlad, the Twins' executive vice president of brand strategy and growth and a board member of the Pohlad Family Foundation. "I think that we have a great opportunity to partner with other people in this to make a real impact. And so, as it relates to the role of the Twins in this, I think we should do everything we can to leverage our brand and play a role and use our voice."
In the short term, the foundation hopes to marshal resources toward rebuilding the communities and impacted businesses, many of which were owned and operated by minorities, around the Twin Cities. Cultural diversity and affordability of those areas remain important priorities, and Bass Roberts said the foundation has already been donating food and supplies to areas in North Minneapolis and East Lake Street in the interim.
Over the coming years, the foundation aims to work with other local organizations that share its values to fund and push for a movement of structural change.
Bass Roberts noted that the process of grieving, rebuilding and inciting change is still in its very early stages in the aftermath of the instability and that the foundation expects to formalize more detailed and specific actionable plans for the financial support in partnership with grassroots organizations, local government and black and indigenous communities in the coming days and weeks.
The goal with announcing the commitment at this time, before many of those formal plans had been established, was to immediately show the Pohlad Family Foundation's strong support for the long-term future of the movement while also giving those communities the time and space to regroup. Whenever those communities and their leaders are ready to identify areas of need and the most meaningful paths forward, the Pohlad Family Foundation stands ready to listen, mobilize its resources and act.
"Literally, the social and civil unrest that's taken place ended last week," Bass Roberts said. "So, while we are anxious to learn and hear what people need, we also know that our community is going through a grieving process right now. And so, we want to respect that. We respect that and we don't want to just rush in and be like, 'Tell us what to do right now.' That would not be respectful at this time. And so, we're giving the community time to heal and we are going to proceed after that.
"We're going to listen to the community; we're going to listen to the people who have been impacted daily by this issue," Bass Roberts added. "We're also going to listen to leaders. Black leaders. Indigenous people. People of color. People who are in the movement. People who are in the struggle. And we're going to really listen to people and we're going to call on our partners that we've been working with for years now to help us understand what we need to do next."
The Pohlad Family Foundation was established by Carl and Eloise Pohlad in 1993 and has recently directed its focus toward addressing issues of homelessness and housing stability around the Twin Cities community. The foundation has established relationships with community groups and organizations around the Metro area in that time and sees this effort as an added commitment to their ongoing work in the area.
"Not only do we care about this city, but we care about black people, we care about indigenous people, we care about people of color, and we want to hear their voices above all else," Bass Roberts said. "We want to respect their lived experience. So, while, yes, we call the Twin Cities home and we love this community, we realize that there are disparities. The quality of life that we like to talk about in the Twin Cities and how wonderful it is, we realize that it is not that way for everyone in the Twin Cities, and so we're committed to changing that."
Several visible members of the Twins' organization, from center fielder Byron Buxton to manager Rocco Baldelli, have already issued public statements in support of black lives and the need for change. The Pohlad family and their foundation are now backing those words with their actions, with the hope that they can be part of the concerted push that finally brings about that change.
"We are here to help solve this problem, and where we go from here, it's not going to be solved overnight," Joe Pohlad said. "It's going to take time. We're going to listen. We're going to learn. We're going to better understand. From there, we're going to do everything we can. We are committed to playing our role in ending this."
"I think in this country, in this community, we've talked about racial equity for a very long time," Bass Roberts said. "But this is a watershed moment for us. We believe that we're going to, one day, look back and say, 'Remember how bad it was before George Floyd? Look at all the progress we've made since George Floyd.' We're determined to not let his death be in vain."