Five St. Louis Rams players took the field for Sunday's home game against the Oakland Raiders with a "Hands Up, Don't Shoot" pose that has been used by protestors in Ferguson, Mo., and across the country recently.
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The five players who were shown doing the gesture on CBS were Stedman Bailey, Tavon Austin, Jared Cook, Chris Givens and Kenny Britt.
There was reportedly a "remote possibility" earlier in the week that the game could be moved to Indianapolis because of unrest in the area, but on Thursday an NFL spokesman said the game would stay in St. Louis.
On Sunday evening, a lengthy statement from the St. Louis Police Officers Association condemned the actions of the players. Within the statement, SLPOA business manager Jeff Roorda called for responsive discipline and intimated that the organization would continue to press until the gesture had been addressed by the team or the league.
Roorda was incensed that the Rams and the NFL would tolerate such behavior and called it remarkably hypocritical. "All week long, the Rams and the NFL were on the phone with the St. Louis Police Department asking for assurances that the players and the fans would be kept safe from the violent protesters who had rioted, looted, and burned buildings in Ferguson. Our officers have been working 12 hour shifts for over a week, they had days off including Thanksgiving cancelled so that they could defend this community from those on the streets that perpetuate this myth that Michael Brown was executed by a brother police officer and then, as the players and their fans sit safely in their dome under the watchful protection of hundreds of St. Louis's finest, they take to the turf to call a now-exonerated officer a murderer, that is way out-of-bounds, to put it in football parlance," Roorda said.
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."
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On Monday, St. Louis prosecutor Robert McCulloch announced that a grand jury declined to indict Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson for fatally shooting 18-year-old Michael Brown, who was unarmed, in August.
After the announcement, demonstrators gathered in the streets of Ferguson, where protests eventually turned violent. Cars and businesses were set on fire and police in riot gear used tear gas to disperse the crowds.
[H/T SB Nation]
- Molly Geary