St. Louis Police Slam 5 N.F.L. Players for Show of Protest

Five members of the St. Louis Rams entered the field making the "hands up don't shoot" gesture.

ST. LOUIS, MO - NOVEMBER 30: Tavon Austin #11, Jared Cook #89, Chris Givens #13 of the St. Louis Rams pay homage to Mike Brown by holing their hands up during their pre-game introduction against the Oakland Raiders at the Edward Jones Dome on November 30, 2014 in St. Louis, Missouri. The Rams beat the Raiders 52-0. (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)

Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images Sport

Just as reports of hope and healing have begun emerging out of Ferguson, nerves are fraying over a brief but powerful protest at the St. Louis Rams game on Sunday.

Five St. Louis Rams entered the field making the "hands up don't shoot" gesture that's become associated with the protests over the death of Michael Brown. Some witnesses say Brown had his hands up when he was killed. 

Soon after, the St. Louis Police Officers Association released a statement saying that it was "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 players were tight end Jared Cook and wide receivers Tavon Austin, Kenny Britt, Stedman Bailey, and Chris Givens. "No matter what happened on that day, no matter how the whole situation went down, there has to be a change," Cook said after the game.

Three of the protesters. From left: Tavon Austin, Jared Cook, and Chris Givens.
Three of the protesters. From left: Tavon Austin, Jared Cook, and Chris Givens.
Photograph by Getty Images

Later, in the fourth quarter, when the Rams were almost through shutting out the Oakland raiders, running back Tre Mason made the signal along with Britt after delivering a touchdown, his second of the game. The first came after an 89-yard run.  

The Rams, by the way, followed the protest with the second-biggest first half in franchise history. By the end of the game, they had 52 points, and the Oakland Raider had zilch.

The police association's statement said that the association's business manager, Jeff Roorda, was "incensed" at the action, saying that it flew in the face of all the extra protection the team had been afforded due to recent protests.   

"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," Roorta said. "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." 


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