By Charise Frazier, NewsOne
Four officers scheduled to work security at Saturday’s WNBA Minnesota Lynx game walked out of Target Center in Minneapolis, incensed by a pre-game presser and t-shirts the officers viewed as anti-police.
“I commend them for it,” said Lt. Bob Kroll, president of the Minneapolis Police Federation, of the officers’ protest, according to the Minneapolis Star Tribune.
Kroll also warned that other officers may take similar action and refuse to work security at future Lynx games.
Lynx members Lindsay Whalen, Maya Moore, Rebekkah Brunson, and Seimone Augustus first appeared with the shirts at a pre-game presser before Saturday’s game against the Dallas Wings. The women said they denounced the recent shootings and called for racial justice.
The shirts were black with the words “Change starts with us. Justice & Accountability,” written in white on the front. On the back were the names of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, two Black men shot last week at the hands of police, as well as the Dallas police shield to honor the five officers fatally shot on Thursday.
But what caused most of the aggravation were the words “Black Lives Matter” scrawled underneath the Dallas police shield.
Brunson said the women were “wearing shirts to honor and mourn the loss of precious American citizens and to plead change for all of us.”
“We are highlighting a longtime problem of racial profiling,” said Moore. Players also wore the shirts during the pre-game warm-up.
The players’ display of solidarity came two nights after five Dallas police officers were killed by a gunman at a Black Lives Matter rally that began in peace, but ended in bloodshed. The shooter, Micah Johnson, was killed hours later by a robotic bomb in a standoff with officers.
Team members felt compelled to speak out. Castile, the man shot and killed on Wednesday during a traffic stop, was a Minnesota native.
The organization released a statement in response to the officers’ protest of the women’s shirts:
“The Lynx organization was made aware about the concerns of the off duty Minneapolis police officers. 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. We continue to urge a constructive discussion about the issues raised by these tragedies.”
Lynx spokeswoman Ashley Carlson confirmed the team did not wear the shirts during Tuesday afternoon’s game against the San Antonio Sparks, almost 300 miles south of Dallas where Thursday’s shooting occurred.
While athletes taking a stand on social justice issues spans back to the Civil Rights Movement, this may be one of the first times in recent memory a WNBA team has publicly used their platform to speak out against the social climate.
The Lynx protest also comes days after NBA star Carmelo Anthony urged more athletes to cement their role in the fight for justice. Anthony wrote the following in an Instagram post on Friday:
“There’s NO more sitting back and being afraid of tackling and addressing political issues anymore. Those days are long gone. We have to step up and take charge. We can’t worry about what endorsements we gonna lose or [who’s] going to look at us crazy. I need your voices to be heard. We can demand change. We just have to be willing to. THE TIME IS NOW. IM all in. Take Charge. Take Action. DEMAND CHANGE.”