The president of a Minneapolis police union Tuesday commended a quartet of officers who reportedly walked off their jobs providing security at a WNBA game on Saturday night after some players wore “Black Lives Matter” shirts calling for change after recent police shootings.
The black warmup T-shirts read “Change Starts with Us -- Justice & Accountability” on the front. The back of the shirts bore the names of Philando Castile and Alton Sterling, two black men recently shot by police in a pair of controversial incidents. “Black Lives Matter” was also printed on the back, just below a replication of the Dallas police shield. An anti-cop gunman shot and killed five Dallas officers on Thursday.
The four officers in Minnesota were off-duty when they left their security positions, according to Lt. Bob Kroll, president of the Minneapolis Police Federation. “I commend [the officers] for it,” he said.
Kroll told The Minneapolis Star Tribune that the officers, who were not identified, also removed themselves from consideration to work future games at the Target Center for the Lynx.
“Others said they heard about it and they were not going to work Lynx games,” he said.
Kroll said because the officers were on an “independent contract” they could start or quit an off-duty gig whenever they wanted.
The Target Center also employs private security in addition to the off-duty cops.
Lynx spokeswoman Ashley Carlson said the players would not be wearing the BLM clothing Tuesday against the Stars in San Antonio. Carlson said the Lynx organization was made aware of concerns of the Minneapolis officers and respects the rights of individual officers to express their own beliefs in their own way.
Kroll said Lynx players should have waited until all the facts in the Castile and Sterling cases were known before publicizing an opinion about the actions of the police officers involved.
“Rushing to judgment before the facts are in is unwarranted and reckless,” he said.
Kroll said other officers may resign the Lynx detail if Saturday’s demonstration is repeated.
“If [the players] are going to keep their stance, all officers may refuse to work there,” he said.
Team captains Rebekkah Brunson and Maya Moore spoke about the decision to wear the shirts before the game against the Dallas Wings on Saturday, and the Lynx posted the news conference on their Facebook page. The two players were flanked by Minnesota's other captains, Lindsay Whalen and Seimone Augustus.
“If we take this time to see that this is a human issue and speak out together, we can greatly decrease fear and create change,” Moore said. “Tonight we will be wearing shirts to honor and mourn the losses of precious American citizens and to plea for change in all of us.”
Moore also spoke during the nearly 5-minute news conference about the Dallas shooting. She praised that city's effort on leading the way in “de-escalation training and other efforts that led to a noticeable drop in the number of shootings by officers in the last few years.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.