Updated at 11 a.m. with NFL saying there would be no discipline for Rams players
The St. Louis Police Officers’ Association called on the NFL to punish five St. Louis Rams players who silently protested the Ferguson grand jury decision by standing with their hands raised in a “don’t shoot” post before taking the field Sunday.
The organization called on the team and the league to apologize for what it called a “display that police officers around the nation found tasteless, offensive and inflammatory.”
The NFL, however, will not fine the Rams players. “We respect and understand the concerns of all individuals who have expressed views on this tragic situation,” the league said in a statement.
The SLPOA had noted in a statement (via KSDK.com):
Five members of the Rams entered the field today exhibiting the “hands-up-don’t-shoot” pose that has been adopted by protestors who accused Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson of murdering Michael Brown. 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.
SLPOA Business Manager Jeff Roorda said, “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.”
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.
Tavon Austin, Kenny Britt, Jared Cook, Stedman Bailey and Chris Givens were the players who protested and Rams Coach Jeff Fisher said he was given no advance notice.
“I just think there has to be a change,” Cook said after the Rams’ 52-0 win. “There has to be a change that starts with the people that are most influential around the world. “No matter what happened on that day, no matter how the whole situation went down, there has to be a change.”
Britt took the protest a step further with tape on his arms.
— SB Nation (@SBNation) December 1, 2014
Cook said he and other players had not been to Ferguson, partly because “it’s kind of dangerous down there and none of us want to get caught up in anything. … It takes some guts, it takes some heart, so I admire the people around the world that have been doing it.”
In the SLPOA statement, Roorda went on to warn of repercussions.
“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.”
By late morning nearly 12,000 had liked the “Boycott St. Louis Rams” Facebook page.
Roorda told The Post’s Sarah Larimer that his “phone’s been blowing up since the minute” he released the statement.
“Here’s a sports league that penalizes and fines players when they do an end zone dance.,” he told Larimer. “There’s certain behavior that should be saved for off the field and this, I think, is one of them.”