NFL Players Make Supportive Michael Brown Pre-game Gesture, Draw Controversy
Sunday night, just before their home game against the Oakland Raiders, five St. Louis Rams players all made a unified “hands up” gesture in solidarity with protesters upset at Michael Brown’s death in Ferguson, Missouri.
The players told CNN interviewers that they came up with the idea just before the game and wanted their action to represent a solidarity with the people of St. Louis and surrounding areas. The players, Stedman Bailey, Tavon Austin, Jared Cook, Chris Givens and Kenny Britt walked onto the field and raised their palms in the air, demonstrating the “hands up, don’t shoot” gesture that protesters in Ferguson have already been using for months.
“We wanted to do something. … This is our community,” Cook said. Bailey emphasized that the players’ move was just a way to show support for their community. “What happened was a tragedy, period,” Austin said, referring to Brown’s killing and the ensuing violence. “There are things out there bigger than football and we notice that.”
Not everyone was thrilled that the players decided to express themselves in such a way at a game, namely the police association in St. Louis, who called for the Rams and the NFL to apologize and discipline the players that participated. Others, however, cried foul and claimed that the players were not at fault for their actions. “They are exercising their right to free speech,” said Rams head coach Jeff Fisher, who declined to give his own opinion on the subject of the Ferguson trial.
For a time there was the idea to fine the players for making the gesture that many officials feel goes against mountains of evidence. “The gesture has become synonymous with assertions that Michael Brown was innocent of any wrongdoing and attempting to surrender peacefully when Wilson, according to some now-discredited witnesses, gunned him down in cold blood,” the police association wrote.
However, after a few long discussions neither the NFL nor the St. Louis Rams organization has decided to take any kind of action against the players. “They will not be disciplined by the club nor will they be disciplined by the National Football League as it was released today,” added Coach Fisher. “We do believe it is possible to support both our players’ First Amendment rights and the efforts of local law enforcement to make this a better community.”
While there have been controversies about whether or not the players have decided to make some kind of an apology for their action, official Rams spokesman Artis Twyman affirms, “We did not apologize.”