NFL Players Clash With Police Association Over Ferguson Support

St. Louis Rams
St. Louis Rams players Tavon Austin, Jared Cook, Chris Givens and Kenny Britt put up their hands to show support for Michael Brown before a game against the Oakland Raiders. Reuters/USA Today Sports/Jeff Curry

On Sunday night's game between the St. Louis Rams and the Oakland Raiders, five Rams players entered the field making the "Hands up, don't shoot" pose, made famous by protests of African-American teenager Michael Brown's death. It was widely reported Brown had his hands up when he was shot by Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson, though Wilson denied under oath that this occurred.

Players Tavon Austin, Kenny Britt, Stedman Bailey, Jared Cook and Chris Givens entered the field in the pose, they did not alert the St. Louis Rams of their plan in advance.

The St. Louis Police Officers Association (SLPOA) has since slammed the five players, and the Rams organization, for the pose. In a statement to the television station KSDK, SLPOA business manager Jeff Roorda said:

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.

Now that the evidence is in and Officer Wilson's account has been verified by physical and ballistic evidence as well as eye-witness testimony, which led the grand jury to conclude that no probable cause existed that Wilson engaged in any wrongdoing, it is unthinkable that hometown athletes would so publicly perpetuate a narrative that has been disproven over-and-over again.

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 canceled 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.

The Police Association called for the players to be "disciplined" and for the Rams as well as the National Football League to issue a "very public apology." The NFL declined to discipline the players over the pose.