Lynx stand firm on taking stand
Much was made of the four off-duty police officers who left their Target Center security posts last Saturday, a protest of the Minnesota Lynx's pregame news conference -- and warmup shirts -- addressing racial profiling.The shirts said "Change st...
Much was made of the four off-duty police officers who left their Target Center security posts last Saturday, a protest of the Minnesota Lynx’s pregame news conference - and warmup shirts - addressing racial profiling.
The shirts said “Change starts with us, justice and accountability” on the front, and listed the names of Philando Castile and Alton Sterling - two black men recently killed by police - and a Dallas Police Department emblem on back alongside the name of the organization Black Lives Matter.
Two days later, Lt. Bob Kroll, president of the Minneapolis Police Federation, was sharply critical of the Lynx in remarks made to the Minneapolis-based Star Tribune, commending the off-duty officers for stepping away and calling the Lynx’s draw “pathetic” - although he has since said he regrets the latter comment.
“It got people talking, and that’s the most important thing right now,” Lynx forward Rebekkah Brunson said Thursday. “It kept maybe a conversation that may have gotten stunted going. So, regardless of how we feel about that, the important thing is we’re talking about it. And us talking about it, we have the opportunity to create change.”
Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve called this a painful time for the entire community, regardless of race and said the Lynx hope to help bring the community together. Black Lives Matter started an event on Facebook this week, encouraging members to attend next week’s game against Seattle to support the Lynx.
“Let’s officially show the team our support and appreciation for them using their platform to address one of the most important issues of our time by enjoying a night of basketball with them,” the event page read.
Reeve said that news was exciting.
“I think that’s the greatest thing,” she said. “One of the ways to progress through this issue is to truly integrate our communities. So for our white fans, our brown fans, our black fans, all of our fans to be in one place together, rooting for the same thing, which is the Minnesota Lynx, I think that’s a thing of beauty, and that’s something we want to be a part of.”
Reeve said generating a dialogue was the primary goal of the T-shirts and pregame news conference last Saturday.
“And my goodness, in the week since last Thursday until now, it’s been incredibly successful in that area,” she said. “That’s what I told our players. Really, really, really proud that we’re moving this thing forward and shining the light on a problem and creating the dialogue.”
One thing the Lynx weren’t trying to do, Reeve said, was create sides for people to choose. The Lynx also spoke out against violence toward police during their news conference.
Some have supported the Lynx; some have spoken out against them. Brunson said she hasn’t been surprised by any reaction.
“It’s a very emotional time in our community, so we were just excited about the voices that we heard,” Brunson said. “Like Coach said, it’s all about the dialogue that we can create, and we were happy that people were speaking up to allow that dialogue to happen.”
“You can’t have dialogue unless you listen, so I think our players have done a great job of handling all that’s gone with this,” Reeve said. “It’s courageous. You can’t have change without challenge, and I think our players have been exemplary examples of how to lead through times like these.”
Reeve and Brunson were asked Thursday if this ongoing issue was a distraction. Neither thought so - the Lynx are 2-0 since the news conference heading into their home game today against New York. Still, Reeve said, the issue is bigger than a basketball game.
“When we say what we do is more than sport, this is a great example of that,” Reeve said. “So to whom much is given, much is expected, and this is one of those times. We’ve got really broad shoulders, and I’ve been really, really proud of the group that we have and we’re able to do both.”
Reeve said this is the time when people in the community need to step up and lead with a level head. She said she is confident Minneapolis has plenty of those types of leaders in Mayor Betsy Hodges and Police Chief Janee Harteau, both of whom distanced themselves from Kroll’s criticism of the Lynx.
“Our community should be really proud at the response to this,” Reeve said. “I am incredibly encouraged. Minneapolis, the Twin Cities, tends to be a leader in these sorts of things, and we should be really, really proud about what we’re putting forward.”
Brunson said the Lynx are likely done wearing the shirts. She felt the team made a thoughtful stand, but now she wants to find ways to make more of an impact moving forward.