Four off-duty Minneapolis police officers working the Minnesota Lynx game at Target Center on Saturday night walked off the job after the players held a news conference denouncing racial profiling, then wore Black Lives Matter pregame warm-up jerseys.
Lynx players did not wear T-shirts supporting the Black Lives Matter movement ahead of Tuesday's game in San Antonio.
"The Lynx organization was made aware about the concerns of the off duty Minneapolis police officers," the team said in a statement. "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.
Lt. Bob Kroll, president of the Minneapolis Police Federation, the union that represents rank-and-file officers, praised the officers for quitting Saturday. “I commend them for it,” he said.
Kroll said the four officers also removed themselves from a list of officers working future games. He did not know who the officers were. “Others said they heard about it and they were not going to work Lynx games,” he said.
Asked if other officers will fill in for those who quit, Kroll said, “If [the players] are going to keep their stance, all officers may refuse to work there.”
The three-time WNBA champions wore black T-shirts that read “Change starts with us, justice and accountability” and on the back had Philando Castile’s and Alton Sterling’s names along with “Black Lives Matter” and a Dallas Police Department emblem.
Police officers killed Castile in Falcon Heights and Sterling in Baton Rouge, La., last week, setting off protests here and nationwide.
At a pregame news conference, Lynx forward Rebekkah Brunson said the players 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 forward Maya Moore, the 2014 WNBA MVP.
Players also denounced the “senseless ambush” of Dallas police.
Police spokesman Scott Seroka said Chief Janeé Harteau was still gathering facts and declined to comment. Representatives of the Lynx and Target Center did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Kroll criticized Lynx players, citing the “false narratives” in the past two years in which some allegations of police misconduct in the killing of black people were refuted. “Rushing to judgment
Police sign up for off-duty jobs to work Lynx games, Kroll said. “They can start or stop a job whenever they want,” he said. “They are working on an independent contract.”
Asked about a report that seven or eight officers had walked off the job, Kroll said, “They only have four officers working the event because the Lynx have such a pathetic draw.”
Saturday’s Lynx game against the Dallas Wings drew 7,613 fans.
Kroll said that despite the police walk-off Saturday, Target Center still retains private security.
The Associated Press contributed to this report,.
Randy Furst • 612-673-4224 • @randyfurst