Law enforcement runs strong in Rachel Banham’s family. So strong that she has tattoos on her right arm of the badge numbers of her father, mother and late grandfather.
If she were not such a basketball standout, as the Gophers’ all-time leading scorer and proud new member of the Lynx, she could have added to her family’s legacy of police officers.
Her perspective adds something different to the Lynx’s platform to tackle social injustice and promote change in the aftermath of George Floyd’s death while in Minneapolis police custody.
“Things need to change,” Banham said. “No doubt about it. That’s the biggest thing with our team and myself. If I can be a bridge in any type of way when it comes to myself reuniting some sort of trust and communication between communities and law enforcement, I would love to do that.
“I’m not going to say I’ve given up on police, because that’s just who I am.”
Banham’s grandfather, Don Sr., was the first black police officer at the University of Minnesota. He was in charge of the security detail when Martin Luther King Jr. and his civil rights group visited the U in 1963.
Her father, Don Jr., retired in 2011 as a captain in the Minneapolis Police Department after 29 years on the force, which included leading security for the Vikings. Her mother, Melissa, will retire soon after nearly three decades with the Minneapolis police as a sergeant in the sex crimes unit.
As one of the most recognizable athletes in Minnesota, Banham understands the significance of her voice in the movement. The former Lakeville North star emphasizes that people should educate themselves more on racial issues and vote for officials who can make changes. She supports peaceful protests and feels strongly about donating and volunteering.
“It’s just so important because we have such a big platform,” Banham said. “Our entire team, we’ve been talking about how we can give back or be a voice for the people who may not be able to be heard.”
This week, the Lynx and Timberwolves joined other organizations in the Team Up for Change partnership to address ways people can make a difference in fighting systematic racism.
Banham and former Gophers guard Andre Hollins spent several days this week collecting food and supplies at the Sanctuary Covenant Church in north Minneapolis. It’s the home church of their trainer and friend Chauncee Hollingsworth, founder of Hoops and Christ.
“There’s a lot of humanity out there, a lot of good people wanting to give back,” Hollins said. “We wanted to do anything to help out, especially during the coronavirus [pandemic] and the things that have transpired after George Floyd’s death.”
Banham stopped training for days after watching the video of a white police officer kneeling on the neck of Floyd, a black man, in south Minneapolis. Following protests for justice and against police brutality in Minnesota and worldwide, Banham agreed changes needed to happen “soon” to protect black lives. It was tough for her to see, though, police as a whole portrayed in a bad light.
“I’ve been brought up in such an incredible family,” Banham said. “They sacrificed. They were great cops and great people. They do things the right way. That’s how I’ve been raised.”
Banham’s tattoos are proof of how proud she is of her family’s roots in law enforcement. Along with giving back, she could make part of her mission soon to build stronger relationships between communities and the police.
“Education is huge right now,” Banham said regarding racial issues. “Talking to people and having tough conversations that might not be the most comfortable thing. But it’s just about being compassionate and empathetic.”