MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Animal rights activists who have disrupted three Minnesota Timberwolves games in two NBA arenas over the past two weeks demand that Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor relinquish his role as governor and contribute $11.3 million to various entities on behalf of animal welfare.
The activists, members of animal rights organization Direct Action Everywhere, are targeting Taylor for his ownership of Rembrandt Farms, a large-scale factory farm that produces tens of millions of eggs each year. Rembrandt’s facility experienced an outbreak of bird influenza in March.
“To have Taylor and other extremely powerful factory farming businessmen getting these taxpayer bailouts flies in the face of the values of ordinary Americans,” Direct Action Everywhere press contact and activist Matt Johnson said. “Taylor should set a powerful example by stepping away from NBA ownership and refusing to take any subsidies related to the HPAI outbreak, and donate funds previously received to help repair some of the harm of the most destructive industry on the planet.”
To combat the epidemic, the company killed more than five million birds with a method called Ventilation Shutdown Plus at one of their primary facilities in Iowa. The method, whereby air flow into the industrial sheds where the birds reside are closed off, consequently killing the birds. Activists deem this practice to be inhumane.
Protester Alicia Saturio glued her hands to the court during live play in the Timberwolves’ play-in game against the LA Clippers on April 12 at Target Center in Minneapolis, the first of the three protests. Security quickly lifted her from the court and ejected her.
“I was nervous,” Saturio told ESPN. “I had never super-glued myself to anything. I wasn’t sure how the fans were going to respond. I most certainly didn’t want any of the players to be hurt, so I made sure to do it when they were down at the other end of the court.”
In Game 1 of Minnesota’s first-round playoff series against the Memphis Grizzlies, activist Zoe Rosenberg chained herself to a basket stanchion near Taylor’s seat during the game at FedExForum in Memphis. She was quickly unchained by police and carried out of the arena. Rosenberg faces charges of trespassing and disorderly conduct.
In Game 4 of the series in Minneapolis, activist Sasha Zemmel rushed the court just in front of Taylor, interrupting live play. Zemel was dressed in an NBA officials uniform. Her intention was to approach Taylor, whose net worth was estimated at $2.5 billion by Forbes magazine in 2020, and call a technical foul on the Timberwolves and Rembrandt Farms owner. Security personnel immediately tackled her to the floor and removed her before she could make the gesture. The referee’s jersey number was 5.3 to represent the 5.3 million birds killed at Rembrandt. Zemmel faces charges of disorderly conduct and fifth-degree assault.
Johnson attended Game 3 at Target Center with the intention of disrupting play. He was apprehended and tackled by security before he could reach the floor. He was placed under arrest and banned from Target Center for one year.
“I didn’t even know what that was,” Timberwolves young star Anthony Edwards said following Minnesota’s Game 4 win. “Y’all got to stop running on the floor in Minnesota. Do that in Memphis. We don’t need it.”
Each of the protesters is a member of Direct Action Everywhere, which performs both public acts of civil disobedience, as well as rescue missions at farm factories. Though the recent acts are in response to the killings at Rembrandt, the group more broadly opposes factory farming.
The organization recently filed a complaint to local and state authorities in Iowa, alleging that Rembrandt’s conduct violated state law. It demands that Taylor expedite the pending sale of the team to Marc Lore and Alex Rodriguez, who have agreed to terms. Direct Action Everywhere also insists that Taylor Corporation, parent company of Rembrandt, donate all $11.3 million received in federal funds to aid in a 2015 outbreak to public health and animal welfare organizations.
The Timberwolves, nor representatives of Taylor, have not commented at the time of publication.