Cops working WNBA game walk out over players' Black Lives Matter shirts

The black shirts worn by the players read, “Change starts with us, justice and accountability” and the names of Philando Castile and Alton Sterling

By Randy Furst
Star Tribune

MINNEAPOLIS — 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.

Lt. Bob Kroll, president of the Minneapolis Police Federation, the union that represents rank-and-file officers, praised them for quitting. “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 black shirts worn by the players read, “Change starts with us, justice and accountability” and the names of Philando Castile and Alton Sterling on the back along with “Black Lives Matter.”

A St. Anthony, Minn., police officer killed Castile in Falcon Heights, Minn., and Sterling in Baton Rouge, La., setting off protests in Minneapolis and nationwide.

At a pregame news conference, Lynx forward Rebekkah Brunsen 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 Minnesota Lynx and Target Center did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Kroll criticized Lynx players for their position, citing the “false narratives” in the past two years in which some allegations of police misconduct in the killing of black people was later refuted. “Rushing to judgment before the facts are in is unwarranted and reckless,” he said.

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.

Copyright 2016 Star Tribune

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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