The Minnesota Wild have backed away from a promotion that would’ve seen a fan giveaway featuring “thin blue line” t-shirts.
The promotion was part of the Wild’s “Hometown Heroes” series aimed at celebrating Minnesota’s “special community of law enforcement officers and dispatchers, firefighters, first responders, and frontline and essential workers,” the team’s website reads.
The thin blue line shirts were originally part of the team’s Law Enforcement Appreciation Night Nov. 1, when the Wild host the Montreal Canadiens.
While the event is still going ahead, the Wild have backed away from the t-shirt giveaway after backlash on social media.
Some argued it was in poor taste given the Twin Cities was the center of the civil unrest following the police killing of George Floyd, with the Wild itself tweeting on the anniversary of Floyd’s murder that “we are reminded of our call to action, and commitment to drive social change and foster inclusivity.”
Responding to the controversy, the Wild said: “We understand the black and blue flag symbol means many things to many people. Our only intention was to show support for law enforcement for the outstanding work they do in our local communities. Moving forward, we will work hard to show appreciation for various groups in ways that best reflect our shared community values.”
Despite the “Thin Blue Line” originally representing the line law enforcement stands between criminals and the public, the flag has become increasingly co-opted by white supremacists, notably when the flag was flown alongside Confederate flags during a racist rally after the 2017 church massacre in Charlottesville.
“We reject, in the strongest possible terms, any association of our flag with racism, hatred, and bigotry,” said flag-maker Thin Blue Line USA in a statement in 2017, per USA Today. “To use it in such a way tarnishes what it and our nation believe in. The thin blue line flag stands for the sacrifice law enforcement officers of this nation make each day. We ask our nation to hold faith with those that defend the thin blue line.”
The flag has proven controversial on another occasion such as following the 2021 police killing of Daunte Wright in Brooklyn Center, with police raising a thin blue line flag inside the fenced off police station while protesters gathered outside.
It was eventually taken down after an order from Mayor Mike Elliott.