Professional sports has long been one of the more diverse industries in America, so it makes sense that the Minnesota Vikings have a social impact department to promote diversity, equality and other causes. The department is led by the team’s vice president of legal and social impact, Karin Nelsen.
Nelsen earned her law degree from the University of Iowa, spent three years working in the Seattle area, then moved back to take a position with the Minneapolis-based Larkin Hoffman law firm. Nelsen was then an in-house counsel at Cargill for 18 years. About five years ago, Nelsen was asked about joining the Vikings legal staff, which led to her hiring.
She noted that several months ago the Vikings started one of the NFL’s first diversity and inclusion councils, with the goal of making the team’s processes and policies more inclusive. The team also appointed its first director of diversity and inclusion, who works with Nelsen on a number of issues.
The council “has helped those of us who are not people of color better understand how they are thinking and feeling. For example, how do we better on-board employees to develop a better pipeline of candidates for the organization?”
One area we have to continue to improve in is in leadership across teams and leagues. How do we make sure we advance and promote women and people of color in those roles?”
One of the Vikings’ major initiatives to promote diversity has been a summer legal intern program to focus on people who may otherwise not find themselves in an applicant pool for summer internships especially in the Twin Cities area.” The summer legal interns are typically law students who have finished their second year of school.
Nelsen makes an effort to stay in touch with interns after they leave to provide job referrals and recommendations, and remains an active mentor.
Speaking of diversity, Nelsen takes pride in the fact that of the Vikings’ four staff attorneys, three are women and two are people of color. Promoting diversity and inclusion “is a true team effort, and we hold each other accountable for efforts in this space.”
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