4 Officers Walk Out Of WNBA Game Over Players’ Offensive Shirts

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After four off-duty police officers got a glimpse of the “offensive” pre-game shirts being worn by WNBA players, they walked out, causing a stir. Controversy quickly erupted with some praising the police while others condemned their actions.

Police officers walked off the job after seeing the Lynx players’ pre-game shirts. (Photo Credit: Screenshot)

The Minneapolis Police Department made headlines when four of their off-duty officers, who were working security for the WNBA Minnesota Lynx game, abandoned their posts. The officers walked off in protest after seeing the players’ pre-game shirts and getting upset, and although the incident took place in 2016, there’s still much to be learned from it today.

On July 9, 2016, the WNBA Lynx players took to the court wearing black pre-game t-shirts that quickly caused upset among four off-duty Minneapolis police officers who were working security at the game. The warm-up jerseys named two black men who were shot by police, and the back of one of the shirts also showed a Dallas police badge two days after five Dallas officers were slain. Included on the shirt were the words “Black Lives Matter.”

Lynx players
The Lynx players’ warm-up jerseys named two black men who were shot by police. (Photo Credit: Screenshot)

Before the game, Lynx players said the jerseys were meant to honor and mourn the deaths, as well as call for change, but the shirts, along with comments made by Lynx players during a pre-game press conference, upset the unidentified officers, who asked team officials to have the players remove the t-shirts. When the team refused, the officers decided to walk off the job in protest.

“What is happening today is not new,” said Rebekkah Brunson, who recounted an incident that she said she encountered during her childhood, in which police allegedly confronted her and her friends with guns drawn. “We have decided it is important to us to take a stand and raise our voices,” Brunson added. “Racial profiling is a problem. Senseless, violence is a problem.”

Lynx players
Before the game, Lynx players said the jerseys were meant to honor and mourn the deaths, as well as call for change. (Photo Credit: Screenshot)

Although Police Federation President Lt. Bob Kroll said, “It’s just a shirt,” he also added that the Lynx players’ protest was “anti-police” and that the players were buying into a “false narrative” about police misconduct, which he acknowledged “frustrated” his officers. “They’re wading into waters they shouldn’t be in, to begin with,” he said. “They are professional athletes. Stick with playing ball. People go there to watch the basketball game.”

However, not everyone agreed. In fact, Betsy Hodges, the Minneapolis Mayor at the time, also weighed in, calling the police union comments “jackass remarks” on her Facebook page. “Bob Kroll’s remarks about the Lynx are jackass remarks,” she said. “Let me be clear, labor leadership inherently does not speak on behalf of management. Bob Kroll sure as hell doesn’t speak for me about the Lynx or about anything else.”

Police Federation President Lt. Bob Kroll (Photo Credit: Screenshot)

While Minneapolis Police Chief Janee Harteau said she understood the officers’ frustrations, she added that she did not condone their actions. “Although these officers were working on behalf of the Lynx when wearing a Minneapolis Police uniform, I expect all officers to adhere to our core values and to honor their oath of office,” Harteau said. “Walking off the job and defaulting on their contractual obligation to provide a service to the Lynx does not conform to the expectations held by the public for the uniform these officers wear.”

The Lynx players’ protest and the officers’ counter-protest came at a time of racial unrest in our nation, similar to what we still see today as many allege that our country has a racial profiling problem as well as unjust violence against blacks at the hands of police. However, neither did anything to remedy the problems at hand. Instead, it would seem that the actions of both only perpetuated further divide during a time that they were supposed to be working together.

This brings us to why we continue to share this incident. It’s a good example of what not to do. We must find ways to actually address and fix our country’s problems. Neither the players’ “anti-police” shirts nor the officers walking off the job accomplished that. Perhaps, instead of giving each other the proverbial middle finger, both parties could have led by example, showing the country how to come together. We hope that, when given such an opportunity in the future, others will make a different choice, choosing unity over division.

In a written statement from the team, the players alleged, “We continue to urge a constructive discussion about the issues raised by these tragedies.” However, it doesn’t seem like a constructive discussion was had or encouraged by their actions. Instead, it was just the opposite, and that’s exactly what happens when people decide to participate in antagonistic finger-pointing while calling it “protest.” When it comes to making progress, it ends up about as productive as a toddler’s temper tantrum. There simply has to be a better way.