The unrest over the fatal shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo. made its way to the big stage of the NFL Sunday.
Before Sunday’s game between the Rams and the Oakland Raiders at the Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis, several Rams players participated in a controversial demonstration during pregame introductions, when they raised their hands in a gesture which mimics the “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot,’’ stance that has become an image used often by protesters upset over the grand jury decision not to charge Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson in the shooting of Brown.
The players who participated in the gesture — Tavon Auston, Stedman Bailey, Kenny Britt, Jared Cook, and Chris Givens — said they came up with the idea right before the game.
“Kenny Britt told me he was doing it, and some of the other guys were doing it,’’ Cook said according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “So we all just hopped on the bandwagon and came up with the idea of how we were going to do it.’’
Rams head coach Jeff Fisher told the Post-Dispatch he didn’t see the gesture and was unaware of it. “I didn’t know anything about it. I was still in the tunnel,’’ Fisher said.
The demonstration did not go unnoticed by the St. Louis Police Officers Association (SLPOA), which issued a statement saying it was “profoundly disappointed in the players’ gesture,’’ calling it “tasteless, offensive, and inflammatory.’’ The group went on to demand the players be punished for their act. A portion of the statement from the SLPOA follows:
“The St. Louis Police Officers Association is profoundly disappointed with the members of the St. Louis Rams football team who chose to ignore the mountains of evidence released from the St. Louis County Grand Jury this week and engage in a display that police officers around the nation found tasteless, offensive and inflammatory…
“The SLPOA is calling for the players involved to be disciplined and for the Rams and the NFL to deliver a very public apology. [SLPOA Business Manager Jeff] Roorda said he planned to speak to the NFL and the Rams to voice his organization’s displeasure tomorrow. He also plans to reach out to other police organizations in St. Louis and around the country to enlist their input on what the appropriate response from law enforcement should be. Roorda warned, “I know that there are those that will say that these players are simply exercising their First Amendment rights. Well I’ve got news for people who think that way, cops have first amendment rights too, and we plan to exercise ours. I’d remind the NFL and their players that it is not the violent thugs burning down buildings that buy their advertiser’s products. It’s cops and the good people of St. Louis and other NFL towns that do. Somebody needs to throw a flag on this play. If it’s not the NFL and the Rams, then it’ll be cops and their supporters.’’
The NFL will not fine the players for the gesture, according to multiple media reports on Monday.
“We respect and understand the concerns of all individuals who have expressed views on this tragic situation,’’ NFL Vice President of Communications Brian McCarthy said in a statement.
“Whatever happened from both sides, there has to be some kind of change,’’ Cook said, according to the Post-Dispatch. “That’s not cool, you know. I think President Obama said it best: People aren’t coming up with these complaints for no reason. People aren’t saying these things just to make it up.’’
Several Rams players reportedly indicated during the week that they hoped to “win one for Ferguson’’ before crushing the Raiders 52-0 Sunday.