When the Minnesota Lynx take to the court Friday in a game against the New York Liberty at the AEG-managed Target Center, they will do so with uniformed Minneapolis police once again providing security for the WNBA team.
The police are returning after four officers abandoned their posts Saturday, shocking the management at Target Center in Minneapolis. A source familiar with the situation told Amplify that officials with AEG and the team were able to work out an agreement with the Minneapolis Police to have police return to the building and provide security for the facility. The WNBA’s own rules with arena tenants require that police are present at every game. Despite their return, the protest walkout shocked and surprised many at the facility.
“It’s unfathomable to think of putting on a major event without a police presence,” one source at the building who’s not authorized to speak told Amplify. “I’ve worked tons of events where people say things I don’t agree with. It doesn’t mean I walk out. I can’t even fathom doing that.”
The protest resignations of the officers came after Lynx players held a news conference denouncing racial profiling in the wake of the shooting of Philando Castile by an officer with the St. Anthony Police Department, a town outside of St. Paul. The three-time WNBA champions wore black T-shirts that read “Change starts with us, justice and accountability” and on the back had Philando Castile’s and Alton Sterling’s names along with “Black Lives Matter” and a Dallas Police Department emblem.
Players for WNBA's Lynx wore these shirts and the cops working security walked off the job in protest pic.twitter.com/6zYj1arJcq
— Judd Legum (@JuddLegum) July 12, 2016
Lt Bob Kroll, the president of the local police union, praised the officer’s decision to abandon their posts, insulting the team for only having “four officers working the event because the Lynx have such a pathetic draw.”
That criticism was viewed as poorly veiled misogyny, following a popular attack line people often use to disparage women’s basketball as inferior to men’s basketball. Average WNBA attendance is about 7,300 per game — the Lynx drew 7,613 fans for Saturday’s game.
“Would these same cops have walked off the job if the men’s professional team displayed similar t-shirts,” another source at the facility said. “I highly doubt it. There’s a double-standard when it comes to women’s sports.”
— The Undefeated (@TheUndefeated) July 13, 2016
The police officers were technically off duty during the game, being paid by the Target Center, but they were in uniform with full police powers including the ability to make arrests. Like most facilities, the police work on a game-by-game basis and can accept or refuse work at any time.
In a statement Tuesday, Minneapolis Police Chief Janee Harteau criticized the four officers, saying “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,” she wrote, also calling the Minneapolis P.D. “a progressive unit” that was leading the way in 21st century policing.
“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,” she said, later adding, “I believe every cop wants what every American wants: a safe place to live. We are all in this together, and in the days and weeks ahead, I’m hopeful that common goal will guide the work that leads us to a better place.”
Minnesota Lynx say players won't wear 'Black Lives' shirts ahead of Tuesday's game in San Antonio. https://t.co/jrQlT1l6rE
— The Associated Press (@AP) July 12, 2016
She also said “While I do not condone the actions of the officers, I realize how every member of law enforcement throughout this country, including myself, is feeling right now.”
“Everyone is hurting, and we all need to find a way to come together,” she continued. “I am proud of our profession and the service our officers provide on a daily basis. Accountability is a must, but police officers also deserve and need public support.”
New York Liberty Center’s Carolyn Swords told the Daily News “It was really disappointing to see that happen,” adding, “I think the object was to engage in a conversation. But by removing yourself from the situation the conversation can’t happen.”