The setting seemed ideal on Sunday at Minneapolis’ TCF Bank Stadium, as the Vikings won their home opener against the Detroit Lions on an afternoon that largely featured Chamber of Commerce weather.
One element was missing from the picture at this Vikings home game, however: Minnesota’s longtime, bearded mascot, Ragnar, was nowhere to be found.
Joe Juranitch, who had portrayed Ragnar since 1994, was not at Sunday’s game, as was first reported by Twin Cities television station KARE. Juranitch posted a message on his Ragnar Facebook page with a picture of him dressed in his typical mascot attire, watching the Minnesota-Detroit game on TV.
"It doesn’t feel right sitting at home," Juranitch noted on Facebook. "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."
Once the social-media world caught wind of the absence of Ragnar — who was a fan favorite and appeared in countless photographs with purple-and-gold faithful on gamedays — the Twitter hashtag #bringbackragnar quickly came into existence.
Fans of Ragnar have started an online petition to convince chief Vikings owner Zygi Wilf to reinstate him to team functions.
Early Monday evening, the Star Tribune newspaper received a statement from the Vikings organization, explaining Ragnar’s situation.
The statement read: "This offseason, Joe Juranitch’s (Ragnar) contract with the Vikings expired. Since then the team has had multiple conversations with Joe but has not been able to reach an agreement on his role with the team moving forward. . . . The Vikings greatly appreciate what Ragnar has meant to the organization and to the fans over the last two decades. 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."
Thus, while Ragnar will no longer be a fixture at each Vikings home game, he apparently won’t completely disappear from all Minnesota gamedays moving forward.