New Vikings GM confident he hired the best head coach

Kwasi Adofo-Mensah
Courtesy MN Vikings

The National Football League now has a record-high seven Black team general managers.  Kwasi Adofo-Mensah, hired by the Minnesota Vikings back in January, is now a GM, a role that historically has been manned by Whites.

However, Adofo-Mensah admitted in a recent MSR phone interview, “I wasn’t really sure it would happen. I don’t mean I didn’t believe in myself and my ability to do it.”  

Partly, Adofo-Mensah pointed out that he didn’t take the oft-typical route in getting pro football-related jobs—player, coach, then team front office. He was in business with two degrees in economics, one from Princeton (bachelor’s), another from Stanford (master’s). His career included a vice-presidency and executive director of a Switzerland-based commodities trading firm after working in property management as an associate portfolio manager at a Connecticut company.

“I got to make decisions,” he explained.  “The best thing I got from that experience was to make decisions based on emotions…winning a lot, losing a lot, all those things, and just being really very clear in very common decision-making environments.”

But he eventually got into the football business. Adofo-Mensah’s first NFL job was with San Francisco as their manager of football research and development in 2013; he was then promoted to that department’s director in 2017. Cleveland hired him in 2020 as football operations VP.

“It was great,” he said of that job. “Just being around that many different minds and making decisions together was incredible.”

Now he is in charge of the Vikings. Not since the late Dennis Green, the team’s first Black coach who also handled personnel decisions, has someone of color been in charge of the organization. Adofo-Mensah was hired shortly before the NFL once again was fighting off new charges of lip-service diversity as a former NFL Black head coach filed a racial discrimination suit against them.

The new Minnesota GM’s first big decision came shortly after his hiring when he hired Kevin O’Donnell as Vikings head coach. This columnist told Adofo-Mensah that we strongly criticized him for it and asked why he couldn’t buck tradition and hire a Black coach.

“I’m so fortunate that he [O’Donnell] believes in me and was willing to take the plunge with me,” said Adofo-Mensah, who claimed that there were Black candidates in the interview pool but ultimately settled on O’Donnell. “We had a great pool [that] was incredibly diverse. But Kevin was the right person for this opportunity.”

Nonetheless, Adofo-Mensah said he understood our sentiments. “I grew up in a fairly non-diverse area,” noted the Cherry Hill, New Jersey native. “Oftentimes [I was] the only one in my classes taking honors classes and things like that.” He also is aware of the NFL’s ongoing struggle to become more diverse in key roles such as head coaches and general managers. 

“I’ve been in this environment my whole life where we’re trying to show and prove that we are worthy, that we have a seat at the table. So, when I got the [Minnesota] job, I’ll be honest, I felt the pressure [to hire a Black coach].

“It’s my job to make sure there’s equality of opportunity, and for me it was opening the eyes of the people on the [search] committee… Can we make this pool diverse?

“I get it, why it’s important,” said Adofo-Mensah. “Ultimately, it’s my job to be true to myself, to this organization, to be open-minded…to hire the best, and we did that. I can always go to sleep at night knowing I did that.”