At the WNBA game between the Minnesota Lynx and the Dallas Wings on July 9, the Lynx players wore black warmup shirts to make a statement about the recent police shootings of Philando Castile and Alton Sterling and the subsequent sniper assassination of police officers in Dallas.
The front of the Lynx players’ shirts had the words "Change Starts With Us -- Justice and Accountability" on the front. The back of the shirts had the names of Castile and Sterling, the slogan "Black Lives Matter" at the bottom, and the Dallas Police Department shield.
According to ESPN, the Lynx’s Maya Moore – the 2014 WNBA MVP -- led a press conference prior to the game, where she said: "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. 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."
“We are highlighting a longtime problem of racial profiling,” she added, notes the Minneapolis Star-Tribune.
Lynx forward Rebekkah Brunson also spoke at the news conference, explaining that the players were “wearing shirts to honor and mourn the loss of precious American citizens and to plead change for all of us.”
The players also denounced the “senseless ambush” of Dallas police on July 7. Moore commended the Dallas Police Department for its "deescalation training and other efforts that led to a noticeable drop in the number of shootings by officers in the last few years," ESPN reports.
However, despite the players’ words of support for the Dallas police and displaying their shield, four off-duty Minneapolis police officers who were working security for game were reportedly offended by the shirts and walked off the game in protest.
Lt. Bob Kroll, president of the Minneapolis Police Federation, supported the officers’ action, saying, “I commend them for it,” the Minneapolis Star-Tribune reports.
Kroll added: "Others said they heard about it and they were not going to work Lynx games. ... If [the players] are going to keep their stance, all officers may refuse to work there."
According to Kroll, police sign up for off-duty jobs to work Lynx games, and as independent contractors, they “can start or stop a job whenever they want.”
The controversy shows no signs of keeping the Minnesota team from speaking out on the issue. As reported by sports columnist Dave Zirin in The Nation, the Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve tweeted: “To rebut BLM with ‘All Lives Matter’ implies that all lives are equally at risk, and they’re not. #BlackLivesMatter doesn’t mean your life isn’t important if you aren’t black — it means that Black lives, which are seen without value within White supremacy, are important.”