Members of the WNBA's Minnesota Lynx stood in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement on Saturday, wearing T-shirts during warm-ups that read, "Change starts with us, justice and accountability."
In response, four off-duty police officers who were working security at the game walked off the job, highlighting the contentious relationship between many police officers and the Black Lives Matter movement.
The back of the T-shirt listed recent police shooting victims Philando Castile’s and Alton Sterling’s names, "Black Lives Matter" and a Dallas Police Department emblem on the back.
Castile was shot by a police officer during a traffic stop in St. Paul, Minnesota, which neighbors Minneapolis, where the Lynx play. The aftermath of the shooting was streamed in real time on Facebook Live and has gained national attention.
"We as a community, especially our leaders, have accountability in owning our weaknesses and really humble ourselves to realize the conviction that we must improve the realities of justice, freedom and safety for all people," Maya Moore, one of the team's captains, said, according to the Star Tribune. "This is a human issue and we need to speak out for change together.”
The Lynx weren't the only team to make such a stand. The New York Liberty also wore T-shirts during warm-ups supporting Black Lives Matter with #Blacklivesmatter and #Dallas5 on the front and a blank # on the back, as the Nation reported.
In Minneapolis, the show of support for the movement led the four off-duty officers to walk off their jobs as security for the Lynx game, as the Star Tribune reported. Their decision was supported by Lt. Bob Kroll, the president of the Minneapolis Police Federation, who said other officers had heard about the show of support and decided not to work Lynx games.
"I commend them for it," he said. The officers are serving as independent contractors, so they are free to decide whether or not they want to continue their work for the Lynx, Kroll said. "If [the players] are going to keep their stance, all officers may refuse to work there," he said.
The Lynx organization released a statement saying they were aware the officers walked off the job.
"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," the statement said. "We continue to urge a constructive discussion about the issues raised by these tragedies."
Officers across the country are hurting, said Minneapolis police Chief Janeé Harteau, who told CNN she understood how the officers who walked off felt. However, she did not condone their behavior.
"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.
The team felt like it needed to use its platform to discuss the issue, the team's captains said.
"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," Rebekkah Brunson, one of the team's captains, said, according to the Star Tribune. "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."