Over the past few months, social justice has been on the forefront of many conversations within both Minnesota and around the world.
Following the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police on Memorial Day in May, the topic has become relevant for everyone with the hopeful goal of creating positive and lasting change in society.
In the sports world, multiple leagues are dedicated to utilizing their platforms to be able to keep that conversation going. Specifically for the NBA and WNBA, both leagues have plans to let players and teams use their voices in various aspects, including allowing players to change the name on the back of their jerseys to display a social justice message.
Within both the NBA and WNBA, one organization that has continued to step up and make a positive impact is the Minnesota Timberwolves and Lynx. Even though one of the most recent events that sparked the current social justice movement happened close to home in Minneapolis, making it a bit more personal for the Wolves and Lynx, the proactive decisions the organization continues to make is nothing new.
Through public comments, decisions and partnerships the Wolves and Lynx have already started to make a lasting impact on the state and country during an important time. Whether it’s players and coaches taking part in protests, rallies and conversations in the local community and throughout the country, or players like Lynx star Maya Moore boldly stepping away from basketball to focus on getting justice for a close friend of hers who was wrongly convicted of a crime he didn’t commit, the Wolves and Lynx are committed to social justice.
With players and personnel for both teams continuing to dedicate themselves to keeping the conversation going, the organization has also established partnerships with the Minneapolis Foundation to pursue justice, equity and healing to fight racism and unite the community. It has also teamed up with the Sacramento Kings and Milwaukee Bucks with the Team Up for Change partnership, standing in solidarity with communities across the nation to effect change in realms of social injustice, racial inequity and systemic racism.
Although the organization’s actions may be more under a microscope right now, the Wolves and Lynx have been at the forefront of making decisions like these farther back than the last few months.
WOLVES’ DEDICATION TO SPARKING POSITIVE CHANGE
Previously and especially in the last few months, the Wolves have taken a stand to help establish meaningful change not only in the present but also in the future.
Most recently, since the death of Floyd, multiple Minnesota players have been involved and vocal within various communities to stick up for social justice, and those efforts have been backed fully by Wolves President of Basketball Operations Gersson Rosas and head coach Ryan Saunders.
“Our city, our community and our organization are still in a tremendous amount of pain. We can’t not be sensitive to that fact,” Rosas said shortly after the death of Floyd. “We want to be an organization that pushes positive change, and we are proud of our guys for stepping up in what they believe.
“This is an epidemic that involves all of us at different levels. We’re at the epicenter of it in Minneapolis and we really believe as an organization that the league and the country looks to us to see how we are going to respond and how we handle this. We take that responsibility incredibly personal.”
In the past few months, Wolves players like Karl-Anthony Towns, Josh Okogie and Jake Layman have made appearances at rallies and protests and have continued to use their voices since. We’ve also seen D’Angelo Russell heavily involved within his hometown of Louisville while attending protests as well.
Immediately after the events in Minneapolis took place nearly two months ago, Rosas, Saunders and the rest of the organization have continued to have internal conversations to talk to the Minnesota players and staff about how they could use this to make an impact. It was clear that they are dedicated to supporting efforts – much like the rest of the NBA – in making a permanent impact involving social justice and systematic racism.
LYNX CONTINUE TO MAKE A MEANINGFUL IMPACT
Being at the forefront of striving for change and being in the public eye while keeping the conversation going is nothing new for the Lynx.
If you remember, in 2016, Minnesota players headlined by Moore, Lindsay Whalen, Rebekkah Brunson and Seimone Augustus wore shirts and held a press conference speaking up about the killings of Philando Castile and Alton Sterling and social justice in general.
More recently, Moore put her basketball career on hold, stepping away from one court to help with criminal justice issues in another court. Those constant efforts resulted in the star player achieving perhaps her biggest and most important victory of her career in June.
“Wow. That’s what I think about when I put Maya into perspective,” Lynx center Sylvia Fowles said last week in a Zoom call. “Just from a human standpoint, the things that she believes in and the morals that she carries outside of the basketball world is everything that anybody would want their daughter to be. She’s strong. She’s vocal. She’s a leader.
“She’s my hero. It’s funny that I say that because she’s so much younger than me. That’s just the reality of the things that Maya is doing.”
During the 2020 WNBA season in Bradenton, Fla., the Lynx will continue to speak out when the league as a whole dedicates the year to continuing the conversation of social justice topics. The WNBA recently announced it has launched a new platform, The Justice Movement, and has created a Social Justice Council. Games during the season will also honor the Black Lives Matter movement and the #SayHerName campaign in multiple ways.
“I think it’s great that the league is supporting us so fully during this important time,” Lynx forward Napheesa Collier said. “As athletes, I think it’s important for us to use our platform. We are excited for what we can contribute and helping bring some sort of change.”
Former Minnesota players continue to make a dedication to various causes as well, including former Lynx and current Atlanta Dream point guard Renee Montgomery, who opted out of playing in the 2020 campaign to use her voice off the court to spark change in the country and beyond.
The Lynx have been vocal and active when it comes to speaking up about social change in the country. Those are just a few examples of them trying to keep the conversation going.
Collectively, we have seen the Wolves and Lynx organization continue to step up and be at the center of various movements of change in the NBA, WNBA and in society in general. The events thus far in 2020 and the reaction from players, coaches and team personnel following those events is just the latest example.
Although there is still work ahead for everyone until the pursuit of lasting change is eventually obtained, there’s no reason to believe the Wolves and Lynx organization won’t continue to focus on being at the center of it all.