Timberwolves and Lynx join 'Team Up for Change' to fight racism, social injustice

Timberwolves coach Ryan Saunders and his wife were among several local sports figures to participate in Friday's "Change Starts With Me" food and supply drive in south Minneapolis. ((credit: Minnesota Timberwolves))

The Minnesota Timberwolves and Lynx announced Tuesday a partnership with the Sacramento Kings and Milwaukee Bucks for Team Up for Change in the wake of George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis.

The Wolves and Lynx joined the partnership to use their platform to fight social injustice, racial inequality and systemic racism. Wolves’ players Karl-Anthony Towns, Josh Okogie and D’Angelo Russell, coach Ryan Saunders, front office head Gersson Rosas and Lynx players Rachel Banham, Lexie Brown and Karima Christmas-Kelly and assistant coach Rebekkah Brunson are all featured in a public service announcement urging unity and action after Floyd’s death.

Team Up for Change started in 2018 after the Kings and Bucks witnessed racial inequality in their communities, which included Stephon Clark’s death and police brutality suffered by Bucks’ guard Sterling Brown.

In the next few months, the Wolves, Bucks and Kings plan to host the third Team Up for Change summit, which will address issues of social injustice with the goal of working toward more equitable communities.

The Wolves and Lynx have joined the movement after Floyd died on May 25 in an officer-involved incident in Minneapolis. Former officer Derek Chauvin is seen on video restraining Floyd, who is in handcuffs and not armed, by placing his knee on Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes. Floyd eventually loses consciousness and was taken to Hennepin County Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead.

The four officers who responded to the incident were fired the following day, and Chauvin has been charged with second-degree murder. The three other responding officers have also been charged with aiding and abetting murder.

Tensions between the Minneapolis community and police department rose dramatically following the incident, prompting both peaceful and violent protests that ended up with buildings destroyed by fire and looting.

Since the incident, the Wolves and Lynx announced their partnership with The Minneapolis Foundation through the Fund for Safe Communities. Saunders and Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve are each on advisory committees for the fund, which will oversee dispersing funds to prevent future violence, address systematic inequities, reform the criminal justice system and help heal communities affected by Floyd’s death.

The Wolves also led a community conversation back on June 4 for staff to talk about personal experiences and emotions on social injustice and systemic racism in the wake of Floyd’s death. The team plans to announce a community-oriented partnership with RISE later this month. The Wolves and Lynx have also declared Election Day, which this year is Nov. 3, a company holiday to ensure that everybody in the organization gets time to cast a vote and do their part to initiate change.

Saunders and Okogie joined Vikings tight end Kyle Rudolph and other Minnesota sports figures last Friday in a "Change starts with me" food and supply drive at the Cub Foods in south Minneapolis, one of several businesses that suffered damage during protetsts in the wake of Floyd's death.

Thursday and Friday, Wolves and Lynx players, coaches and staff and partners with Hy-Vee will join MATTER to pack 1,000 meal kits and 2,000 snack packs. Those will be distributed to Urban Ventures, a community center in south Minneapolis where there is a great need for food due to both the Coronavirus pandemic and local businesses and grocery stores being closed due to civil unrest.