May we be seeing a return of Ragnar to the Vikings sidelines?
Joe Juranitch, who has played a semi-official mascot of the Vikings for 21 years – despite the presence of the now-extinct Vikadontis Rex and the current speechless Viktor the Viking mascot – is looking to get back into the game after making headlines earlier this week for contract demands that bordered on extortion.
In an interview on 1500 ESPN Radio in Minneapolis Friday, Juranitch claimed that his incredible contract demand was a starting point for negotiations, not a line-in-the-sand type demand.
There was a wave of public sentiment last Sunday when Juranitch/Ragnar wasn’t on the Vikings sidelines. For more than two decades, he has been a fixture at Vikings games, although the History Channel has taught us that Vikings didn’t travel via Harley Davidson.
One can only imagine how the old-school negotiations went between Ragnar and the Vikings. Ragnar slides a piece of paper across the table with the figure $20,000 on it. The Vikings brass raises an eyebrow because, given his previous $1,500-a-game rate of pay, $20,000 for 10 games (two preseason and eight regular season) would represent a 33 percent raise. Ragnar then asks for the piece of paper back and wrote in “per game” under the $20,000 – effectively asking for an annual pay increase from $15,000 to $160,000, a 1,067 percent increase.
He also wanted a 10-year contract that, discounting postseason games, would make his contract worth $1.6 million during the duration of the deal.
Is it any wonder the Vikings balked, then walked?
On 1500 ESPN Friday, Juranitch tied to explain his position, claiming he was hoping to start high and work toward an equitable compromise.
“I was asked to put a contract together,” Juranitch said. “I’m not a lawyer. I’m not an agent. I’m an entertainer. I had to ask a friend to help me put something together. This is what we put together and it all blew up. I’m not ready to retire. The Vikings wanted me to retire and have a limited role moving forward. Am I ready to retire? I’m 54 years old. I feel like a 28-year-old. I don’t want to retire.”
It can be debated whether Ragnar is a professional entertainer or a sideline oddity that entertains intoxicated end zone fans. He admitted that his asking price was much too high, but he’s hoping the door is still open for him to return.
It was clear he felt bad about his negotiating tactics because, despite two interviewers at his disposal, he began asking and answering his own questions in Brett Favre fashion.
“It was something they had me put together and I have never – ever – had to put a contract together,” Juranitch said. “Did I make a mistake? Oh, yeah. Did I? Yes. Can I clear that up the next go-round? Yeah, I can.”
Juranitch became a Twitter trend on Sunday when he posted a photo in himself on the Ragnar Facebook page dressed in full regalia looking forlorn watching the Vikings game on TV. He trademarked the rights to Ragnar as a Vikings sideline performer, so he can’t technically be replaced, but, in the aftermath of the publishing of his demands, he has yet to hear back from the Vikings, who criticized that he hasn’t taken part in many of the community events that often include Viktor and the Vikings cheerleaders. Juranitch said the reason for that is that he lives in Ely in northern Minnesota, a five-hour drive from Minneapolis.
Criticized for dancing with Vikings cheerleaders, Juranitch said it was more about kitsch value than anything else.
“Here’s what’s behind that,” Juranitch said. “I know the fans pay a lot of money to be entertained. Is it entertaining? It’s awfully entertaining. This isn’t about mocking anybody. It’s not about making fun of anybody. That’s not who I am. It’s about entertaining. I don’t know that that would be a fair thing to say.”
Asked if he would return at his old salary, Juranitch bobbed and weaved around the question, but said he hopes that something can be worked out.
“I know we can come to an agreement,” Juranitch said. “What that agreement looks like? I don’t know. Can we all come together and live happily ever after? I know we can. How can we make that happen? It’s about communication. It’s like a marriage. At some point, if you’re not communicating with your wife, you’re going to have to come together and resolve whatever the problem is.”
The problem at this point seems to be solely on money and, perhaps as offers get more reasonable, we may see Ragnar on the sidelines once again.
- Vikings Hall of Famer Paul Krause and Chiefs Hall of Famer Willie Lanier will be the guests on today’s edition of Pro Football Hall of Fame Radio on SiriusXM NFL Radio from 1-3 p.m. CDT. Krause and Lanier will be interviewed by host Howard Balzer and Pro Football Hall of Fame Executive Vice President Joe Horrigan.
- Vikings guard Brandon Fusco was a full participant in practice Friday, but is listed as questionable on the injury report.
- San Diego starting safety Jahleel Addae will be out Sunday, as will return man Jacoby Jones. Both have been sidelined with ankle injuries and neither practiced throughout the week. Tight end Ladarius Green, who has sustained two concussions in the span of 11 days, has been limited in practice all week and is listed as questionable.