At a press conference four players stood, showing off their Black Lives Matter T-shirts their team was about to wear on the court. Their shirts apparently made four officers walk off the job. The WNBA champions wore the black-and-white shirts during warm-ups before a game Saturday against the Dallas Wings.
The front of the shirts read “Change starts with us. Justice & accountability,” and the back showed the names of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile. It also showed the Dallas Police Department logo and the phrase, “Black Lives Matter.”
Forward Maya Moore told reporters:
“We as a nation can decide to stand up for what is right, no matter your race, background or social status. It is time that we take a deep look at our ability to be compassionate and empathetic to those suffering from the problems that are deep within our society. Again, this is a human issue, and we need to speak out for change together.”
The Minneapolis officers who were working off-duty, providing security at the event, apparently walked out after seeing this because the message just didn’t sit well with them. Four officers walked off the job that night and removed themselves from a list of officers working future games.
Lt. Bob Kroll, president of the Police Officers Federation of Minneapolis, praised officers for walking off the job and also went on to criticize the Lynx players:
“Rushing to judgment before the facts are in is unwarranted and reckless.”
On the other hand, Minneapolis police Chief Janeé Harteau said she understands how the off-duty officers felt but does not condone their actions:
“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.”
But according to Harteau, police deserve public support:
“While I do not condone the actions of the officers, I realize how every member of law enforcement throughout this country, including myself, is feeling right now. Everyone is hurting and we all need to find a way to come together. I am proud of our profession and the service our officers provide on a daily basis.”
The players also spoke, and told reporters what their shirts mean to them. The shirts are to honor those who lost their lives in the past week, and to call for an end to racial profiling and senseless violence. Lynx player Rebekkah Brunson said:
“Racism and unjust phobic fear of black males and disregard of black females is very real. When we look at the facts, it’s hard to deny that there’s a real problem in our society. I’m scared for my brothers and sisters, my nieces and nephews, my future son or daughter.”
The team said it had been made aware of the off-duty officers’ concerns:
“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.”