What happens when pro athletes protest the police at their games? The off-duty police officers providing them security walk out — at least in the Twin Cities. After players for the WNBA home-team Lynx put on Black Lives Matter t-shirts, all four off-duty cops working the game walked out. Their union president told the Star Tribune that none of their colleagues would ever return as long as the players chose sides against them:
Four off-duty Minneapolis police officers working the Minnesota Lynx game at Target Center on Saturday night walked off the job after the players held a news conference denouncing racial profiling, then wore Black Lives Matter pregame warm-up jerseys.
Lt. Bob Kroll, president of the Minneapolis Police Federation, the union that represents rank-and-file officers, praised them for quitting. “I commend them for it,” he said.
Kroll said the four officers also removed themselves from a list of officers working future games. He did not know who the officers were. “Others said they heard about it and they were not going to work Lynx games,” he said.
Asked if other officers will fill in for those who quit, Kroll said, “If [the players] are going to keep their stance, all officers may refuse to work there.”
This was in part prompted by the shooting of Philando Castile here in St. Paul. That shooting is still being investigated, and it does appear that questions about that shooting may be warranted. But making such a splashy public-relations-boosting move so soon after a wave of violence aimed at police officers across the country — especially the deaths of five police officers in Dallas — seems like the kind of stunt that practically begs for a counter-response.
The players tried to stand on both sides of that road in their press conference:
Before Saturday’s game, four Lynx captains, Seimone Augustus, Rebekkah Brunson, Maya Moore and Lindsay Whalen, held a news conference to offer remarks about the three shootings, which roiled the nation. “We do not, in any way, condone violence against the men and women who serve on our police force,” Moore said (via the Star Tribune). “Senseless violence and retaliation will not bring us peace.”
“One aspect of our team’s culture is accountability,” Moore added. “It’s kept us strong over the years. We, as leaders, try to hold ourselves and each other accountable as an organization.”
“In the wake of the tragedies that have continued to plague our society, we have decided it’s important to take a stand and raise our voices,” Brunson said. “Racial profiling is a problem. Senseless violence is a problem. The divide is way too big between our communities and those who have vowed to protect and serve us.”
If that’s the case, then why didn’t these players try reaching out to the police officers providing them security first, rather than offer up a publicity stunt? If the divide is “way too big,” why not try to narrow it rather than widen it? After all, they have an existing relationship with the local police force, or at least they did. They could have reached out to the officers that provided security and brought them into a demonstration that could have fostered more unity and understanding than bitterness and division. Instead, they engaged in virtue-signaling from the cheap seats.
What these players and the Lynx did was about as far removed from “accountability” as possible. They made a bad situation worse needlessly, and will face few personal consequences for it, just to make themselves part of a story. If they want accountability, then they should start doing ride-alongs with police in the Twin Cities to see the issues from both sides. Or, better yet, volunteer for the police department and put on a badge, as Dallas police chief David Brown said yesterday. Their sensitivity to the issues could improve the state of policing, and they’d find themselves far more accountable then they are today.
Update: It could have been worse:
— Paul Maland (@PaulMalandNFL) July 11, 2016
“We have spoken to Isaiah regarding his extremely disturbing and unacceptable social media decision,” the team’s statement said. “It was completely inappropriate and we have made him aware of our high level of disappointment. Isaiah has apologized but also knows that just an apology is insufficient and that he must take steps to make a positive difference after a very negative and impactful post.”
Translation: The Browns are embarrassed and angry with Crowell, and as soon as all the decision makers gather from their vacations and have a chance to really talk about the situation, they’ll decide how to handle things.