Jilted ex-Vikings mascot Ragnar says end was abrupt
MINNEAPOLIS - The man who has played Ragnar at Vikings games for the past 21 years doesn't dispute he set a high price on his services this season, but Joe Juranitch said Friday the NFL team was planning to phase him out well before they saw his ...
MINNEAPOLIS – The man who has played Ragnar at Vikings games for the past 21 years doesn't dispute he set a high price on his services this season , but Joe Juranitch said Friday the NFL team was planning to phase him out well before they saw his contract demand.
Juranitch, who won an audition to become the Vikings' official mascot in 1993, was never sent a contract, or even credentials, for any of the team's home exhibition games or the home opener last Sunday at TCF Bank Stadium.
"I don't care if you're the Pope or Ragnar, if you don't have accreditation, you're not getting on the field," Juranitch said in a phone interview Friday.
"I asked them, 'Should I come to the first preseason game?' 'No.' Then I ask them, 'Should I come to the second preseason game?' 'No.' I asked last Wednesday where was the contract they said they were going to send over to me. They told me to put one together by the end of Friday. 'Should I come on Sunday?' 'No.' "
Juranitch, 54, said he already knew he would be working in a limited role moving forward when he set his price at $20,000 a game, a figure he now regrets using to start what he assumed was an opening salvo in a negotiation.
Instead, he said, the Vikings ended the conversation, and he hasn't heard from them since.
"I'm really hoping they contact me back and say, 'Come on, buddy, let's start all over again.' And this time I'll learn from my mistakes," he said.
If the Vikings are interested, they're keeping it a secret.
Contacted Friday, the team resent a statement released Monday, when the Vikings officially announced the split. In it, the team said Juranitch's contract had expired, and "multiple conversations" failed to bring agreement on a new one.
A team spokesman on Friday said the Vikings wanted only to "reiterate how much we appreciate what Joe has meant to the organization."
Since 1994, Juranitch would arrive on the field riding a purple-and-gold Harley-Davidson and wearing a horned helmet, his long beard flowing over a sheep skin vest. During games, he was part entertainer, part cheerleader -- wielding a replica Viking ax and entreating fans to cheer on the Vikings.
He was paid $1,500 for every home game under a contract written by the team, he said, before the team asked him to come up with a proposal for a new deal.
"They wanted a contract together by (Sept. 21) and it's like, I don't know what to put together," he said. "They kept saying, 'We need it now, we need it now.' Who can I turn to? I turned to a buddy I thought could help me with this thing. Now they say, 'No. We don't have a contract.' "
For years Juranitch worked in education in the Minnetonka and Hopkins school districts, first as a security guard, later as an assistant dean of students. He now works for RazorEdge Systems, a cutting-edge business his father started in Milwaukee before moving it to Ely, Minn. But Juranitch was still making the four-hour drive to perform at Vikings games.
The Vikings play host to the San Diego Chargers at noon Sunday.
"Nobody told me that my day is done," Juranitch said. "Nobody has called me from the Vikings and said we've parted ways; I read that in the newspaper. That's why I think there's still hope. I believe I'll be on field this Sunday."