The Minnesota Vikings have faced plenty of worthy adversaries in contract negotiations over the years. It should come as no surprise that Ragnar the Viking was one of the most ferocious.
The Vikings announced on Monday that they have not been able to reach a new contract agreement with Joe Juranitch, the man who played Ragnar for the last 21 years and was looking for quite a raise to pillage the team’s home games and strike fear into the hearts of their opponents while growling at them atop his purple motorcycle.
Ragnar was asking for $20,000 per game over the next 10 years, a person with direct knowledge of the discussions told The Associated Press. That would be $1.6 million for eight regular season home games per season, and $2 million if preseason games were included. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the team does not publicly discuss contract negotiations.
A fan favorite since 1994, the burly, bearded Ragnar led the Vikings out of the tunnel on his motorcycle during pregame introductions, wearing a horned helmet and furs. But when the Vikings hosted the Detroit Lions on Sunday in their home opener, Ragnar was nowhere to be found.
He posted a message on his Facebook page that had a picture of him in full Ragnar garb while watching the game on television.
"It doesn’t feel right sitting at home," the message read. "This is not by my choice.I don’t make those decisions..At this point it was made for me. I miss all my fans and your support .let’s all stay positive as we move forward."
Ragnar was an independent contractor and not an official member of the organization. Since 2007 he has shared the spotlight in Minnesota with Viktor, the team’s official mascot. Ragnar made about $1,500 a game last season.
Fans started an online petition to have him reinstated and flooded his Facebook page with words of encouragement.
The Vikings responded to numerous requests from fans and media on Monday with a statement that said they have had "multiple conversations" with Juranitch but were unable to reach a new agreement.
"The Vikings greatly appreciate what Ragnar has meant to the organization and to the fans over the last two decades," the team said. "We intend to honor his 21 seasons on the field during a 2015 Vikings home game and we will welcome him to future ceremonial events. We will always consider Ragnar an important part of Vikings history."