On Sunday, Nov. 30, five players from the St. Louis Rams football team – Stedman Bailey, Tavon Austin, Jared Cook, Chris Givens and Kenny Britt – walked onto the field, hands raised in solidarity with Ferguson protesters. This action is the nonverbal slogan of the popular ‘Hands up Don’t Shoot’ movement. In response to Ferguson’s Grand Jury decision not to indict officer Darren Wilson, protests have swept across the nation causing uprisings in New York, Oregon, Washington D.C. and many more states.
If you are not familiar with what is going on with this movement, check out this article written earlier on The Eye.
“We wanted to do something…This is our community,” said Cook to a CNN affiliate. The St. Louis Rams have deep rooted connections to the people of St. Louis, and therefore Ferguson. The Rams players put their hands up with only the best intentions, but not everyone saw it that way.
This powerful gesture greatly angered St. Louis County police. They were offended that these players were taking a stand on a national issue that, in the police’s mind, had ended with the correct verdict. In a CNN article, Jeff Roorda, business manager of the police association, wrote, “It is unthinkable that homegrown athletes would so publicly perpetuate a narrative that has been disproven over and over again.”
Roorda and others from the St. Louis Police Officers Association demanded an apology for the players “tasteless, offensive and inflammatory” actions. When an apology was delivered by email, its sincerity was called into question.
Rams players and spokesman, Artis Twyman, told CNN, “We did not apologize,” even though Leaders from the St. Louis Police Officers Association and Rams officials supposedly made great work at a ‘peace talk’ on Monday, Dec. 1.
In response to the proceedings of that meeting, Roorda told CNN, “We made some progress today and…We feel strongly that they better understand our perspective and the perspective of the law-abiding citizens that support law enforcement.”
However, not all St. Louis policemen were united behind the police association’s disgust.
A group representing black police officers in St. Louis, The Ethical Society of Police in St. Louis, threw their support behind the players. This group is made up of 220 African-American officers from all ranks, opposed to the The St. Louis Police Officers Association. The SLPOA has no black officers on its governing board and has a very small percent of African-American members.
The Ethical Society said in a statement that, “We think that [the players] actions were commendable…especially in the community where these players work.”
Regardless of this support, Rams players are not feeling quite so loved.
Jared Cook, Rams tight end, has received hundreds of threats via Facebook and other mediums from people appalled by his actions. In response to the motives behind their pre-game display, Cook said,
Cook touches on some powerful points. He reiterates to those angered few that his “peaceful protest” was not intended to single anyone out. “‘Hands up don’t Shoot’ is not just a Ferguson thing…It’s not just about Ferguson,” said Cook.
This movement is about standing up, it is about bringing light to important issues that might otherwise be ignored. It doesn’t just involved Ferguson, it involves the world.
SAS is known for supporting victims of natural disasters, for supporting families, faculty and staff suffering from specific troubles and for supporting each other. What if we weren’t allowed to show our support in fear of upsetting someone?
A recent example of SAS showing support would be for the teachers at JIS. Ragini Sharma commented that, “It would be wrong for us not to be allowed to show support. We have a right to do it.”
Sarah Hoffmann had similar views and said, “We are supporting the teachers of JIS because SAS students have friends there and we both participate in IASAS. We’re family. To think that the Rams players were criticized for supporting their family is wrong.”
The five Rams players meant no harm. They simply wanted to show support. They wanted to show the people of Ferguson that others believe in their cause. Katie Devins said she believed that, “[The Rams players] wanted to show that no matter how small in number you are, you are never alone.”