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‘Jackass remarks’: Minneapolis mayor slams police union official over WNBA protest

Lynx forward Rebekkah Brunson, left, is greeted by teammate Natasha Howard before a game Saturday. (Timothy Nwachukwu/Star Tribune via AP)

A day after a Minnesota police union chief voiced strong support for four off-duty officers who quit rather than provide security for a WNBA team that demonstrated its feelings about three high-profile incidents that resulted in deaths last week, the mayor of Minneapolis slammed his comments as “jackass remarks.” Mayor Betsy Hodges did not mince any words Tuesday in distancing herself from what Lt. Bob Kroll had said.

Off-duty cops quit security for WNBA game after players wear Black Lives Matter shirts

On Monday, Kroll, the president of the Minneapolis Police Federation, praised the officers for walking off the job after Minnesota Lynx players wore shirts bearing the message, “Change Starts With Us — Justice and Accountability,” plus the names of two black men killed by cops in separate incidents last week, one in Minnesota, the logo of the Dallas Police Department and the phrase, “Black Lives Matter.” The players also offered remarks before a home game Saturday condemning both “racial profiling” and “violence against the men and women who serve on our police force.”

Kroll commended the officers for quitting and suggested their colleagues might also refuse to work Lynx games in the future. He also took a swipe at the attendance of the team, which won last year’s WNBA title and has been the champion in three of the past five seasons, saying, “They only have four officers working the event because the Lynx have such a pathetic draw.”

That had Hodges taking to social media to blast Kroll’s comments. In a note posted to on her Twitter and Facebook accounts, the mayor said, “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.”

The Minneapolis police chief, Janee Harteau, also issued a statement Tuesday, saying, “Although these officers were working on behalf of the Lynx, when wearing a Minneapolis Police uniform I expect all officers to adhere to our core values and to honor their oath of office. 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.”

“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,” Harteau added. “Everyone is hurting and we all need to find a way to come together. … I believe every cop wants what every American wants: a safe place to live. We are all in this together, and in the days and weeks ahead, I’m hopeful that common goal will guide the work that leads us to a better place.”

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Kroll, in his comments Monday, chided the Lynx players for furthering some “false narratives” about incidents of police officers killing black people. “Rushing to judgment before the facts are in is unwarranted and reckless,” he said.

“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 Lynx said in a statement released Tuesday. “At no time was the safety of our game in question as Target Center staffs extra personnel for each and every game. The Lynx and the entire WNBA have been saddened by the recent shootings in Dallas, Baton Rouge, and St. Paul. We continue to urge a constructive discussion about the issues raised by these tragedies.”

Other WNBA teams that publicly reacted to the killings last week included the New York Liberty, whose players wore shirts with “#BlackLivesMatter” and “#Dallas5″ on the fronts before a game Sunday, and the Los Angeles Sparks, which showed the phrase, “All Lives Matter,” on arena video screens during a game Sunday. In 2014, several NBA stars, including LeBron James, wore pre-game shirts with the phrase, “I can’t breathe,” to protest the killing of a black man by New York police.

Lynx players did not wear the shirts before a game in San Antonio on Tuesday, and a spokesperson for the team said that the players had no plans to wear them in the future.

(H/T Minneapolis Star Tribune)