Timberwolves players weigh in on protesting police violence

Dave Zirin
Dave Zirin (Onika Craven/MSR News)

Since NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick’s non-standing statement during the playing of the national anthem in late August, more talk seems to have been centered on what he did rather than why he did it.

Dave Zirin, who writes for The Nation and his own Edge of Sports blog, succinctly wrote last week, “Kaepernick is on a mission to make this country face the reality of racist police violence.” During an appearance last month at St. Paul’s East Side Freedom Library, Zirin told the audience that Kaepernick’s oft-criticized act is part of “this larger Black Lives Matter movement.” He has sparked other athletes at all levels all around the country to also make their feelings known about racial injustice in this country where everyone can see it, believes the columnist-author.

“I think technology helps us a lot,” continued Zirin. Players are hosting “virtual meetings” via social media as well as in locker rooms and clubhouses on this subject. “But I wish it was the [players] who were saying they need to get together and talk about strategy.”

The Minnesota Lynx players back in July actually set the stage, calling for “healing, compassion and dialogue” nearly two months before Kaepernick, wrote espnW.com’s Mechelle Voepel.

Zirin told the MSR that the WNBA players’ action showed “a multiracial solidarity” in protesting police-related shootings of Blacks as well as what happened to Dallas police officers who got ambushed. “I thought what the WNBA players did was great, beautiful, and even groundbreaking,” he explained as he pointed to two “historic aspects.”

“The first time we saw White athletes actually stand with their Black mates, that was a very important new ground that was broken. The second part that was so important was that [the New York Liberty] was sanctioned by the league [in July], fined by the league for wearing the T-shirts when they were told not to, but they didn’t care. The league backed down and rescinded their fines. They made the league blink.”

Shabazz Muhammed
Shabazz MuhammedCharles (Steve Floyd/MSR News)

Will the Minnesota Timberwolves follow the Lynx’s lead and show their own form of protest? The MSR during last week’s media day asked several Wolves players to comment. Following are their responses:

Shabazz Muhammed: “We all know what is going on. I think it is something we have to address.”

Jordan Hill: “It’s tough what’s going on with the police in different cities. It’s not right what’s going on.”

Adreian Payne: “I wish that things could be different.”

Zach LaVine: “This is a touchy subject.”

Kris Dunn: “It is definitely a hard topic to talk about.”

However, when later asked to be more specific, several of the players went soft-shoe or became hesitant.

“I don’t know,” responded LaVine.

“If that’s how you feel to protest, do what you got to do,” said Hill.

“That is something I will decide,” stated Karl-Anthony Towns.

Brandon Rush was the only Timberwolves player who, when asked, declined to comment.

Kris Dunn
Kris Dunn (Steve Floyd/MSR News)

“Hopefully we can do something as a group,” said Timberwolves Head Coach and Basketball Operations President Tom Thibodeau. “We are against any [form] of racial injustice.”

“Some people don’t understand,” said Andrew Wiggins. “Some people actually get it. Some people are tired of it and need change — it’s been going on for a long time.”

Sports can be a platform to bring attention to such controversial topics, said Cole Aldrich, the only White player who spoke on the subject when asked. “I grew up different than others. I personally can’t understand what some players go through. I personally love listening to different stories and try to broaden my [perspective].”

Added Hill, “I have older brothers and cousins who would be in that same situation. I don’t want to be in that situation. I get the stereotypical [reactions] and the judge me the wrong way” because of his tattoos and dreads.

When pressed for a definitive answer as to whether or not they will protest, Aldrich said, “Yes. We are one unit, one team.”

“Most definitely,” concluded Hill.


Charles Hallman welcomes reader responses to challman@spokesman-recorder.com.