The term “perfect storm” has been defined as a “critical state of affairs, arising from a number of unpredictable factors.” Such a storm descended on the Target Center in Minneapolis before a Women’s National Basketball Association game between the three-time WNBA champion Minnesota Lynx and the Dallas Wings. Members of the Lynx wore warm-up shirts bearing the words CHANGE STARTS WITH US — JUSTICE & ACCOUNTABILITY on the front, and on the back were the names of two blacks killed by police and a Dallas Police Department badge intended to honor the five officers of that department killed in an ambush while on the job. Under the badge were the words BLACK LIVES MATTER.
In a press conference before the game, Lynx player Rebekkah Brunson declared that police violence and misconduct were not new. She told of a childhood experience facing police with their guns drawn. She pointed out that the players were wearing the shirts as a sign of respect for the loss of life of American citizens and to beseech the authorities for reform. She maintained that it was important for the players to take a stand and bring attention to the issue, maintaining that the twin problems of racial profiling and senseless violence must be dealt with. Lynx forward Maya Moore explained that the protesting players were “highlighting a longtime problem of racial profiling and unjust violence” exercised by the police against blacks in America.
She emphasized that they do not in way condone violence against those who serve on the police force, stating “Senseless violence and retaliation will not bring us peace.” The players also condemned the “senseless ambush” of Dallas police that killed five and wounded nine. The team organization issued a statement pointing out that while they respected players right to protest, they also respected the right of the individual officers to “express their own beliefs in their own way.” The statement urged a “constructive discussion” about the points raised by the protesters.
The four Minneapolis police officers working off-duty as security for the game walked away from the assignment after the players’ news conference featuring the black pregame warm-up jerseys. The Minneapolis Police Federation issued a statement that the four officers asked officials to have the shirts removed, and when the team refused, the four walked off the job. Lt. Bob Kroll, president of the Police Federation, described the protest as “anti-police” and admonished that the Lynx players’ case was a “false narrative” alleging police wrongdoing. He suggested that the players, as professional athletes, should concentrate on playing ball.
He also warned that if the players continue their protest “officers may refuse to work there.” Minneapolis Police Chief Janeé Harteau responded with a statement that she understood the officers’ feelings but could not excuse their actions. She stated that the officers were off duty, but still wearing the Minneapolis Police uniform, and that walking away from a contractual obligation was a violation of their oath of office and a failure to live up to public expectations. She explained that “everyone is hurting” and “we all need to find a way to come together.”