There were suggestions on Twitter and elsewhere that the Lynx would receive an increased level of support on Friday night, in reaction to a comment from a local union leader that the team’s crowds at Target Center were “pathetic.”
The union man was Lt. Bob Kroll, president of the Minneapolis Police Officers Federation. Kroll said this in his comments supporting the decision by four cops to walk away from off-duty jobs as security for last Saturday’s Lynx game at Target Center.
The controversy did not surface in the media until midweek. For many, Kroll became the bad guy, and Lynx players became heroines for having worn T-shirts in support of Philando Castile and Alton Sterling, two black men killed by police in the disparate locations of Falcon Heights, Minn., and Baton Rouge, La.
The Lynx also were praised for including the shield of the Dallas Police Department on the T-shirts, as if showing anguish for the five Dallas cops killed in an ambush was an example of great awareness.
The guess here is the T-shirts would not have caused a walkout from the off-duty cops, if it did not include the phrase “Black Lives Matter.”
The loosely formed national groups that go by that name can offer all the disclaimers that they choose, but for a good share of police officers it has to be taken as an accusation that they have no regard for the lives of black people.
And you don’t want cops — on or off duty — to take that as a serious insult worn on a T-shirt before a professional sports event that draws thousands of people?
Kroll’s offhand comment on the Lynx as a pathetic draw was careless, yes, but there’s also this:
On the same night the Lynx were wearing the T-shirts, St. Paul officers were being bombarded with rocks, bottles and (in one instance) a 20-pound concrete block by some lowlifes who decided to join a Black Lives Matter protest that was allowed to close Interstate 94 late Saturday.
If a cop sees his St. Paul brothers and sisters go through that, and he’s asked about the Lynx situation (as was Kroll a couple of days later), he might have a tendency to go off the handle.
Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges lashed out at Kroll for “jackass remarks.”
This is an opinion of which I have no doubt: If Kroll had made a reference to the Timberwolves as a “pathetic” draw, we wouldn’t have heard a word in their defense from Hodges.
The Lynx were on the road at San Antonio on Wednesday, so it was Friday night when the Lynx would receive an unprecedented outpouring from fans new and old at Target Center.
Ah … not quite.
The size of the crowd was pretty much what it has been for weekend home games this season.
I was sitting next to Annette Margarit of Richfield, a season-ticket holder, when the Lynx starters were introduced. She was asked if this was the usual level of noise and enthusiasm for introductions.
“I think it might be little louder tonight,” she said.
Margarit was there with neighbors from Richfield. It was the first game for those longtime friends, not due to the Bob Kroll controversy, but rather because they finally gave in to Annette’s lobbying.
I saw one person in the second row with a homemade sign carrying a Black Lives Matter message. A Channel 9 reporter said his search produced a couple of fans who were at their first Lynx game to show support because the players had supported Black Lives Matter.
There were probably a few more new attendees for such reasons — with “few” being the key word.
“We have drawn tremendously well this year, and for the past several years,” said Chris Wright, president of the Timberwolves and Lynx. “Almost all the people are here for the same reason tonight as they have been all season:
“Because they love this team, they love these players, and love the way they play basketball.”
There was this odd coincidence for me before the game:
A woman walked in, exchanged a fist bump with a team employee and then headed to her seat several rows back at center court.
As a regular, she was a likely suspect for an interview. Her name was Marijo Meyer and she offered this news: “We share a hometown.”
Fulda. Deep in the southwest corner of Minnesota. Population 1,100 (always).
“Bob Kroll was kind of a jerk, most of us agree on that, but people need to take a step back,” Meyer said. “The players had a right to go public with their views. And, I don’t know if I fault the cops for doing what they did.
“There’s a lot of turmoil around and I don’t know if anything is the right answer. Right now, I just want to watch a good basketball game.”
The home team provided that, beating the New York Liberty 88-70.