When members of the WNBA’s Minnesota Lynx wore T-shirts with a message seeking change following the deaths of Philando Castile and Alton Sterling, who were both fatally shot by police officers last week, they weren’t the only group taking action Saturday.
Four off-duty Minneapolis police officers who were working security for Saturday’s Lynx game elected to leave their posts at Target Center in response to the players’ stance.
“I commend them for it,” said Lt. Bob Kroll, president of the Minneapolis Police Federation, according to the Minneapolis Star Tribune.
The black warm-up shirts said, “Change starts with us. Justice and accountability” on the front. (Accountability is a Lynx team mantra.) The back of the shirts featured the names of Castile and Sterling, the Dallas Police Department shield and, at the bottom, “Black Lives Matter.”
While Kroll did not know the identities of the four officers who left the game, he said they may not be the last to take such a stand.
“Others said they heard about it and they were not going to work Lynx games,” Kroll said.
The four officers who left have taken their names off a list of those who may work future games.
On Tuesday, Lynx spokeswoman Ashley Carlson said the players would not be wearing the Black Lives Matter clothing against the Stars in San Antonio.
Carlson’s statement said the Lynx and the WNBA have been saddened by the recent shootings in St. Paul, Baton Rouge and Dallas. She said the players’ message mourned the loss of life.
Carlson said the Lynx organization was made aware of the concerns of the Minneapolis officers and respects the rights of individual officers to express their own beliefs in their own way.
Sterling was shot by police officers outside a Baton Rouge, Louisiana, convenience store last Tuesday. Castile was killed by a suburban St. Paul police officer during a traffic stop Wednesday. During a peaceful protest in response to both shootings on Thursday in Dallas, five police officers were shot and killed by a heavily armed sniper.
“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,” the Lynx’s Maya Moore said during a news conference prior to Saturday’s game. “Tonight we will be wearing shirts to honor and mourn the losses of precious American citizens and to plead for change in all of us.”
Moore also praised the Dallas police department’s efforts to lead 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.”
When asked by the Star Tribune if other officers will replace those who quit, Kroll said, “If [the players] are going to keep their stance, all officers may refuse to work there.”
The Lynx’s next home game is Friday against the New York Liberty.
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.