Four off-duty officers from the Minneapolis Police Department were working security for the WNBA Lynx game when they abandoned their posts. The four saw the players’ pre-game shirts, became upset, and walked off.
The players were wearing black T-shirts that had the names of two black men who had been shot by police the previous week. One name was Philando Castile, a man shot and killed by police during a traffic stop in Minnesota.
The back of the shirt was also printed, and featured a Dallas police badge. This was in honor of the five Dallas police officers killed on the job. The back of the shirt also had the words “Black Lives Matter.”
During the pre-game conference, the players explained that the shirts were made to honor and mourn the dead, and also to advocate for change.
Rebekkah Brunson, while narrating her own childhood encounter with police who had their guns drawn, stated, “What is happening today is not new.”
She continued, “We have decided it is important to us to take a stand and raise our voices. Racial profiling is a problem. Senseless violence is a problem.”
According to the Minneapolis Police Federation, the four officers were offended by the shirts, and asked the team officials to get the players to take them off. When the team refused to comply with their wishes, they walked off.
The police federation president, Lt. Bob Kroll, stated, “It’s just a T-shirt, but our officers have been frustrated.”
He called the protest “anti-police” and stated that the Lynx players were buying into a “false narrative” alleging police misconduct.
“They’re wading into waters they shouldn’t be in to begin with. They are professional athletes. Stick with playing ball. People go there to watch the basketball game,” he said.
Janee’ Harteau, Minneapolis Police Chief, stated that she understood the officers’ frustrations, but did not condone their actions. She stated, “Although these officers were working on behalf of the Lynx, when wearing a Minneapolis Police uniform I expect all officers to adhere to our core values and to honor their oath of office. Walking off the job and defaulting on their contractual obligation to provide a service to the Lynx does not conform to the expectations held by the public for the uniform these officers wear.”
Minneapolis Mayor, Betsy Hodges, posted on Facebook; “Bob Kroll’s remarks about the Lynx are jackass remarks. Let me be clear, labor leadership inherently does not speak on behalf of management. Bob Kroll sure as hell doesn’t speak for me about the Lynx or about anything else.”
The team issued a statement regarding the incident.
It read; “The Lynx organization was made aware about the concerns of the off duty Minneapolis police officers who had signed up to work Saturday night’s game vs. Dallas. While our players’ message mourned the loss of life due to last week’s shootings, we respect the right of those individual officers to express their own beliefs in their own way. At no time was the safety of our game in question as Target Center staffs extra personnel for each and every game. The Lynx and the entire WNBA have been saddened by the recent shootings in Dallas, Baton Rouge, and St. Paul. We continue to urge a constructive discussion about the issues raised by these tragedies.”