The police killing of Daunte Wright just outside of Minneapolis is creating reverberations throughout the sports world. First the Minnesota Twins, then the NBA’s Minnesota Timberwolves, and then the National Hockey League’s Minnesota Wild all canceled their games. And they didn’t do it out of fear of riots, as some sportswriters erroneously (and inexcusably) tweeted.
Here is the statement that the Twins issued regarding the decision to postpone Monday’s contest against the Boston Red Sox.
Out of respect for the tragic events that occurred yesterday in Brooklyn Center, and following the additional details in this evolving situation, the Minnesota Twins have decided it is in the best interests of our fans, staff, players and community to not play today’s game. The decision was made by the Minnesota Twins after consultation with Major League Baseball, and local and state officials. Information regarding the rescheduling of today’s game, and corresponding ticket details, will be released in the near future. The Minnesota Twins organization extends its sympathies to the family of Daunte Wright.
Statements that followed from the other teams were similarly vague, but still significant. These statements are a critical sign of the times. Sports teams are realizing that performative gestures just aren’t going to cut it anymore—not with players and not with the young fans every league is desperate to attract. By canceling the games, the executives and owners of these franchises are acknowledging that reality.
Today’s cancellations happened for several reasons. The first and most obvious reason is that Minneapolis is in a profound state of crisis, with the killing of Daunte Wright taking place during the trial of George Floyd’s killer Derek Chauvin. The Twin Cities and surrounding areas are already on edge. This latest outrage could push things right over, especially if it looks like nobody gives a damn. It has fallen to major league sports to send the message that this problem is so significant that the games simply cannot go on as usual.
The other reason teams took this step, I would argue, is the influence of NBA, WNBA, NHL, MLS, and MLB players who refused to take the field following the police shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wis. They laid down a marker, withdrawing their labor in the face of injustice. In Minnesota, teams are getting ahead of that possibility. As difficult as these times are, the move shows just how much has changed in less than a year. And even if the leagues’ statements aren’t as strong as everyone wants, it’s striking that these owners are even aware of the world outside their arenas. Compare that to 1992 during the LA rebellion against police brutality, when the sports world barely blinked. It’s blinking now.
The question that looms is what impact canceling these games will actually have. It’s understandable that some would be cynical. But by taking this step, teams are at the very least doing something that I would describe as “puncturing privilege.” The white fans of these teams may have the luxury of not caring about Daunte Wright, of not even learning his name. But there is no turning away from this when SportsCenter is leading with this story and your game tickets are, at least for one night, worthless.
But sports can and should do so much more than cancel games. The next step is for these politically connected franchise owners to agitate for some kind of police reform. Few, if any, of them, however, want to step in front of the cameras and confront the police. But that’s next. Many players and fans, as this crisis continues, are going to demand nothing less.