June 29, 2024 

What it means to Minnesota Lynx’s Carley Knox to be grand marshal of Twin Cities Pride Parade

'I just feel like I’ve been fighting this fight for so long'

MINNEAPOLIS — It’s not uncommon to find president of business operations Carley Knox at half court at the Target Center during Minnesota Lynx games. At some point in her game-night duties, Knox will make her way to the court to help honor a member of the community or present grants to local charitable causes.

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It could be to honor an organization like Special Olympics Minnesota and the Jr. Lynx Dream Team, who were recognized recently. It could also be for an armed forces veteran in the Homegrown Heroes program. Any time a member of the community, either from the Twin Cities or Greater Minnesota, is honored at a Lynx game, you’ll find Knox thanking them on behalf of the team.

So it wasn’t strange for her staff to let her know she’d be needed at center court during the team’s Pride Night on June 22 against the Phoenix Mercury. The only irregularity was the complete lack of information on who was being honored and for what.

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“I had no idea what was happening and I’m like, ‘What’s going on?!’ All I knew was that they needed me at center court at a certain time,” Knox told The Next. “I didn’t know what was happening to what degree. I didn’t know they were going to make the jersey that said ‘Grand Marshal’ for me. It’s special that [Lynx head coach and Knox’s wife] Cheryl [Reeve] came out and gave me that jersey, also very embarrassing. I’m just not used to that kind of attention!

“It was a major surprise and I was so embarrassed as I’m used to being out there and honoring other people. So I was very, very red in the face, but so appreciative of the organization to give me the Inspiring Women award for that.”

The literal and figurative spotlight Knox so often shares with others was shining bright for her in celebration of Twin Cities Pride naming her grand marshal for the 2024 Twin Cities Pride Parade. 

“Carley’s continued dedication to the LGBTQIA+ community has not gone unnoticed,” Twin Cities Pride said in its announcement. “Her leadership and mission to ensure that the MN Lynx’s organization is elevating and amplifying the voices of marginalized communities is unwavering. 

“She stands up and speaks out—no matter the circumstances—ensuring that we are always welcome in the home of the Lynx. But more than just her work with the Lynx organization, she has personally always been a strong voice and shown up each and every time she is needed.”

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Twin Cities Pride informed Knox of the honor at the end of 2023. She was honored at a recent grand marshal reception at The Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis, and the parade will take place on Sunday morning.

Knox’s grand marshal duties will wrap up just in time for her to rush home for tipoff of the Lynx’s game against the Sky in Chicago at 2 p.m. CT.   

“You know, it’s like you fight, and you fight, and you fight. I’m at Year 20 now in the WNBA and truthfully, I just started crying,” Knox said. “What a humbling, incredible honor. Never in a million years did I think I was going to be the grand marshal for the second-biggest Pride parade in the country, which is just crazy and humbling.”

Knox has been part of the Lynx’s front office since her wife, Cheryl Reeve, was hired as head coach in 2010. During her 15 seasons with the Lynx and 20 in the WNBA, she’s been guided fiercely by the mantra to use sport as a vehicle of change. 

“The reason I cried when they told me [the news] is I just feel like I’ve been fighting this fight for so long,” Knox said. “This same type of fight against marginalization, discrimination across all marginalized groups has really informed my entire career and really my entire life. [I] feel like somebody saw that and recognized that kind of work that we’ve done, the activism, the commitment to always speaking up when I see any kind of injustice.”

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An All-American and highly touted soccer player in high school, Knox’s dream was to coach a soccer program when her playing career was over. She received no shortage of collegiate offers, and many programs even included an invitation to join their coaching ranks whenever she hung up her cleats, even if she decided to play college soccer elsewhere.

But those invitations all but disappeared well before her playing career came to an end.

“I was an out athlete in college and very politically active,” Knox said. “A lot of those opportunities, those doors closed in my face because of who I was. That’s why I’m so passionate about wanting to make it better for generations that come behind me. I don’t want opportunities to be stolen from people because of who they are.”

Joining Knox in the parade will be her son Oliver and an additional float filled with Lynx and Timberwolves staff members. Fans can also visit the Lynx booth following the parade in Loring Park, the hub of Twin Cities Pride.

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The Lynx played their inaugural season in the WNBA in 1999 and have participated in Twin Cities Pride every year since. 

“My wife is grand marshal of the Twin Cities Pride Parade. I’m awfully proud of that,” Reeve told reporters before the team’s Pride Night game. “… The tremendous work and dedication in the face of objections, in the face of just living a life that isn’t easy. There’s just so many things you can point to. [We were] at the grand marshal reception, and just the stories, if you multiply that by the thousands of people in the LGBTQ+ community, the stories are hard to hear. My son was in the audience and he had questions. Why would we treat people like this? 

“The LGBTQ+ community, the Minneapolis and Twin Cities community, [the] Minnesota community means so much to us. We’re going to continue to celebrate. It’s the best way, as we’ve said, to use sport as a vehicle of change.”

Written by Terry Horstman

Terry Horstman is a Minneapolis-based writer and covers the Minnesota Lynx beat for The Next. He previously wrote about the Minnesota Timberwolves for A Wolf Among Wolves, and his other basketball writing has been published by Flagrant Magazine, HeadFake Hoops, Taco Bell Quarterly, and others. He's the creative nonfiction editor for the sports-themed literary magazine, the Under Review.

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