Off duty Minneapolis police officers outraged by Lynx players’ t-shirts and comments walked off the job at Target Center in Minneapolis on July 9, 2016. Four police officers were working security at the WNBA Minnesota Lynx basketball game when they quit in protest of the pre-game warm-up shirts worn by Lynx players and statements made by team captains, Rebekkah Brunson and Maya Moore, during a press conference that evening.
The shirts read “Change Starts With Us, Justice and Accountability” on the front and the names of Philando Castile and Alton Sterling, the logo for the Dallas Police Department and Black Lives Matter on back.
Brunson and Moore read prepared statements; none of the players took questions from the media during the news conference. In her comments, Moore focused on the “longtime problem of racial profiling and unjust violence” against African Americans. She said they did “not condone violence against the men and women who serve on our police force.” Moore called for accountability of the police and praised the efforts by the Dallas Mayor and Police Chief to institute training and “other efforts that have lead to a noticeable drop in shootings by officers over the last few years…”
During her statements, Brunson talked about the reason why the team decided to wear the shirts, gave her opinion on the recent violence and spoke about her childhood and fears that she has, as well as the need for change.
Brunson said, “…it is important to take a stand and raise our voice. Racial profiling is a problem. The divide is way too big between our communities and those who have vowed to protect and serve us…” She went on to describe a time when she was about eight years old, playing in her apartment complex and being confronted by police officers: “Then one day two police officers showed up, guns drawn, pointing them at us for no apparent reason…at that age we didn’t understand. I can remember the fear of having people who were supposed to protect us, draw their weapons on innocent children – for what?”
Describing the fear she has for her family members and future children, Brunson said, “…I am scared that I can’t teach them to stand up for themselves; to be young, strong, proud people; that playing cowboys are only for other kids, that hoodies aren’t made for you, or that asking the question ‘why?’ will get you killed. That success and social growth will not save you…”
Four off-duty Minneapolis police officers working as security guards that evening walked off the job in protest of the shirts and statements made by the Lynx Captains. In an interview with the Star Tribune, the president of the Minneapolis Police Federation, Lt. Bob Kroll, did not know who the officers were, but commended them for quitting. He also said that the officers, having heard about the players’ statements, had decided to remove themselves from working any future Lynx games, adding, ““If [the players] are going to keep their stance, all officers may refuse to work there.”
The Lynx organization released a statement saying: “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.”
Video of the full press conference was posted on the Lynx Facebook page.