The Minnesota Lynx played in front of four less cops after the off-duty officers providing security walked out of the women's professional basketball game over "Black Lives Matter" warm-up shirts worn by the players, reported the Minneapolis Star Tribune
The officers were at the Lynx game at Target Center against the Dallas Wings on Saturday when the players held a news conference denouncing racial profiling, said the Tribune.
The team's t-shirts read "Change starts with us, justice and accountability" on the front, with the names of Philando Castile and Alton Sterling on the back with the "Black Lives Matter" and a Dallas Police Department emblem.
Castile was killed in the Minneapolis area and Sterling in Baton Rouge in police-involved shootings, sparking protests around the country organized by the Black Lives Matters movement and other civil rights organizations.
Five police officers were shot and killed by a sniper in Dallas last Thursday during one of those protests.
The Minneapolis Police Federation told WCCO-TV
that the officers approached team officials about asking the players to take off the t-shirts, but the team refused.
"It's just a t-shirt, but our officers have been frustrated," said Lt. Bob Kroll, the police federation president. He called the display "anti-police" and said the players were supporting a "false narrative" about police misconduct.
"They're wading into waters they shouldn't be in to begin with," Kroll told WCCO-TV. "They are professional athletes. Stick with playing ball. People go there to watch the basketball game."
Minneapolis Police Chief Janee' Harteau told the television station that while she understands the officers' frustration, she did not condone them walking out of game.
"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 players did not wear the t-shirt before Tuesday's road game in San Antonio, noted the Star-Tribune. The team issued a statement, called for "constructive discussion."
"The Lynx organization was made aware about the concerns of the off duty Minneapolis police officers," the team said. "While our players' message mourned the loss of life due to last week's shootings, we respect the right of those individual officers to express their own beliefs in their own way. ... We continue to urge a constructive discussion about the issues raised by these tragedies."
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