How Tru Pettigrew Is Helping The Minnesota Timberwolves Become Champions of DEI

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The Minnesota Timberwolves may have fallen short of making the NBA Finals, but the team’s chief diversity and inclusion officer, Tru Pettigrew, is helping the organization become a champion of diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI)

Under Pettigrew’s leadership, the Timberwolves have been looked at as leaders in the fight for social injustices following the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis in 2020. After Pettigrew turned down an opportunity to work with the team—twice—he finally gave in.

“We all had those callings and those assignments at different seasons of our lives,” he told NBC News. “I was called here to build those bridges. There were phenomenal people here doing work, but they were working in silos. Sports brings people together from all walks of life.”  

Pettigrew started the role in 2021 in addition to being chief impact officer of his own company, Tru Access, located in Cary, North Carolina. When he landed in Minnesota, he hit the ground running by gaining trust between the Minneapolis Police and the team’s players, who stood on the front lines with the Minneapolis community during protests against police brutality. 

With the spotlight shining on Minnesota at the height of the Black Lives Matter movement, Pettigrew worked on the Timberwolves’ commitments to enhance social inequality and tackle racial injustices—both inside and outside the arena. Pettigrew’s team started by creating resource groups for employees of color and LGBTQ+ staffers. Shortly after, the women’s groups, which were already established, grew. The organization was also one of the first teams in the NBA to give players and staff Election Day off. 

Labeled the Timberwolves’ “secret weapon in the equity playbook,” the team’s groundbreaking efforts have resulted in numerous awards in the fight for social justice. In early 2024, the team won the NBA Inclusion Leadership Award, highlighting excellence in creating programming that promotes inclusion. Karl Anthony Towns, the team’s star power forward, was named the league’s 2023-24 NBA Social Justice Champion. 

Towns used his influence to champion the “Restore the Vote Act,” a bipartisan bill that was passed to restore voting rights to over 55,000 former felons in Minnesota. Former felony offenders are eligible to vote now, under new state law, as soon as they leave prison. 

After the team was nominated for Sports Team of the Year, Pettigrew acknowledged the recognition—being the only team without a championship—as being the result of those built bridges.

“It’s really been affirming more than anything. Because when you’re doing this work … you can’t always measure what matters,” he said. “And when you start to have other people recognize the impact of the work that you’re doing, that is when it just becomes more fulfilling. And it’s not even about any hardware. It is just knowing you’re making a difference.” 

Pettigrew has made a big difference in the community that the Timberwolves serve. In March 2024, he led the Timberwolves to partner with U.S. Bank to showcase local talent, businesses, and organizations with the Community Cultural Experience Tour, touring Black-owned businesses on Minneapolis’ northside, according to Spokesman-Recorder.

The collaboration created extended awareness and a chance to “correct the false narrative that people have about North Minneapolis that is rooted in the stereotype about the area and all of Minneapolis.”

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