• September 27, 2021

Updated: After a week of tragedy, Lynx players honor victims of violence

7/12/16 UPDATE: Police officers working Lynx game walk off the job
7/13/16 UPDATE: NBA Commissioner Adam Silver responds

After a week of horrific incidents of violence across the United States, the Minnesota Lynx honored the victims of the tragedies before Saturday night’s game against the Dallas Wings.

The team’s captains, Seimone Augustus, Rebekkah Brunson, Maya Moore, and Lindsay Whalen, held a press conference to voice their sorrow and feelings about the week’s events. They also wore t-shirts with the names of two victims, the logo of the Dallas Police Department, and the phrase “Black Lives Matter” printed on the back.

The front of the t-shirt includes the phrase “Change Starts With Us” and “Justice & Accountability.”

“It is hard to deny that there is a real problem in our society,” Brunson said during the press conference.

“Tonight, we will be wearing shirts to honor and mourn the loss of precious American citizens and to plead for change in all of us.”

The names on the shirt included Philando Castile, a 32-year-old African-American resident of Minnesota, who was shot and killed during a traffic stop in the Twin Cities earlier this week.

Two days before Castile died, another African -American male, 37-year-old Alton Sterling, was fatally shot in Baton Rouge by a cop. On Thursday night, the nation was again rocked by a tragedy when a gunman opened fire at police during a peaceful march against police brutality in downtown Dallas.

Before the shots rang out, the officers mingled peacefully with rally attendees, even taking photos with some citizens. Recently, the Dallas Police Department was lauded for its efforts to build positive relationships in the community.

Many WNBA players and college coaches posted status updates on their social media accounts throughout the week about the heartbreaking events. The Lynx posted photos from the press conference on Twitter.

Four off-duty police officers working as security (in uniform) for the Lynx game left their post and walked off the job because they were upset with the Lynx’s messages. The president of the Minneapolis Police Federation, Lt. Bob Kroll, praised the officers who felt offended that the Lynx honored civilians and other police officers killed by gunfire.

“I commend them for it,” he told the Minneapolis Star Tribune. He claimed that the players were pushing “false narratives” about police brutality.

Kroll added that the officers also removed themselves from a list of cops working future games.

“Others said they heard about it, and they were not going to work Lynx games,” he stated. He also added: “If [the players] are going to keep their stance, all officers may refuse to work there.”

His remarks also included an insult to the Lynx fanbase when clarifying the actual number of officers that worked the game: “They only have four officers working the event because the Lynx have such a pathetic draw.”

Today, the Lynx were in San Antonio for an afternoon game against the Stars and issued the following statement last night.

“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.”

Today Minneapolis Police Chief Janee Harteau and the city’s mayor, Betsy Hodges, responded to the actions of the police officers and Kroll’s comments.

“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,” Harteau said. “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. Accountability is a must, but police officers also deserve and need public support.”

Hodges posted her thoughts on the matter via Facebook:

“Bob Kroll’s remarks about the Lynx are jackass remarks,” she wrote. “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.”

On Wednesday, July 13, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver addressed the matter after a league’s Board of Governors meeting. A reporter asked Silver the following question.

A couple of nights ago, four members of the Minnesota Lynx wore t-shirts to kind of protest the killings, and then the Dallas officers and security walked out, off-duty police officers. Just want to get your thoughts on that. And secondly, will the league have any reaction or response to that? And thirdly, what do you think of players such as Carmelo Anthony making statements on his own about these issues?

Silver’s response:

Let me take them in reverse order because I think in a way the third part of your question is an answer to the first, which is I am absolutely in favor of players speaking out and speaking from the heart about whatever issues are important to them. It’s how this country operates. I’ve had this direct conversation with many of our players, and I’m not one to say they have an obligation to do it, but I think those that feel comfortable doing it and want to speak out, they have this incredible forum to do it, whether it’s through in a formal way through media members that are in this room or whether it’s through social media.

I actually think it demonstrates that these are multidimensional people. They live in this society, and they have strong views about how things should be. So I’m very encouraging of that.

I think back to the first part of your question. My preference would be that players adhere to our uniform rules, both in the NBA and the WNBA. I think it’s a very slippery slope. As to where you would draw the line when it’s appropriate for a particular player to use that, use a game, pregame, as a political forum, I think it’s a dangerous road for us to go down. So I would greatly prefer that the players use the platform they’re given, social media, press conferences, media in locker rooms. However, they want to do it to make their political points of view be known.

Lastly, and I think it’s the middle part of your question, I do think there is a role for the league to play. I think there’s a great tradition in the NBA of players using the NBA as a platform to speak out on issues that are important to them, and often players look to the league for ways in which we can help structure a platform for them to have a voice. It’s something that I’ve talked directly to Michele Roberts about.

We now this summer have a group of NBA players playing as part of USA Basketball. I think one of the things we’ve discussed with Jerry Colangelo and Coach K is whether there’s an appropriate forum for them when they’re still in the United States. They’re playing several exhibition games in cities like Houston and Los Angeles and maybe potentially picking one of those cities and creating some sort of forum. Maybe it’s an opportunity to sit down with police officers, with local folks, the youth of the community who are directly affected by these issues, to have a platform to talk about these things.

I think one of the great things about sports is it does bring people together. Without going too long on this, I think part of the fundamental issue is trust, and I think maybe using basketball, using this platform, we can get people having a very healthy dialogue on these issues.

In short, I think those are the platforms, whether they’re created by the league or players on their own as opposed to using our uniforms for political expression. My preference would be the former.

WNBA players from other teams, college coaches, and many others also chimed in via social media, some criticizing Kroll for his jab at the Lynx.




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