Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges blasted the “jackass remarks” made by the head of the city’s police union on Tuesday, while Police Chief Janeé Harteau issued a more measured response after four Minneapolis police officers walked off an off-duty job at a Minnesota Lynx game Saturday.
The officers quit their posts before the game when players criticized racial profiling and wore pregame warm-up jerseys that said “Black Lives Matter” but that also included the Dallas Police logo. The episode, which came on the same night hundreds of protesters blocked Interstate 94, was yet another example of raw feelings following the shooting death of Philando Castile by St. Anthony police and the slaying of five Dallas police officers.
Hodges, who posted her remarks on Facebook, was reacting to Minneapolis Police Federation President Bob Kroll, who said in an interview with the Star Tribune on Monday that he commended the officers for leaving their post and predicted other officers would refuse to work games.
He also said only four officers worked the Saturday game because the Lynx are a “pathetic draw.”
Mayor Hodges wrote, “Bob Kroll’s remarks about the Lynx are jackass remarks. Let me be clear: labor leadership inherently does not speak on behalf of management. Bob Kroll sure as hell doesn’t speak for me about the Lynx or about anything else.”
A spokesman for Hodges said she would have nothing more to add beyond the Facebook comment.
In a separate statement, Harteau said that although the officers were off-duty at the time, she expects “all officers to adhere to our core values and to honor their oath of office” when in uniform.
“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. “While I do not condone the actions of the officers, I realize how every member of law enforcement throughout this country, including myself, is feeling right now.”
Minneapolis police spokesman Scott Seroka said he did not know if the officers will face discipline. He added that police department administration can approve contracts for off-duty employment, but the chief cannot order officers to work those jobs.
Asked if he had any comment about the statements by Hodges and Harteau, Kroll said in a text message: “They are both entitled to their opinion.”
Team urges discussion
The four officers were working the Lynx game at Target Center on Saturday night when the players held a news conference denouncing racial profiling, then wore pregame warm-up jerseys that read, “Change starts with us, justice and accountability” on the front and listed the names of Philando Castile and Alton Sterling — two black men shot and killed by police in Minnesota and Louisiana — on the back along with “Black Lives Matter” and a Dallas Police Department emblem.
Lynx spokeswoman Ashley Carlson announced that the players would not wear the BLM clothing at Tuesday’s game against San Antonio.
“The Lynx organization was made aware about the concerns of the off-duty Minneapolis police officers,” the team said in a statement. “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.”
Kroll said Monday that he did not have the names of the four officers who quit the game, but said they removed themselves from a list of officers working future games. If the players “keep their stance,” Kroll said, “all officers may refuse to work there.”
Kroll’s remark on Monday about attendance at Lynx games — saying the team has “such a pathetic draw” — just might create a spike in attendance.
On Tuesday, supporters of the team were attempting to rally Lynx fans on social media to attend a July 22 game against the Seattle Storm at 7 p.m. at Target Center, which they were informally calling “Kroll depreciation night.”