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Mike Ditka says he’s ’embarrassed’ by Rams’ ‘hands up, don’t shoot’ Ferguson protest

Stedman Bailey (left to right), Tavon Austin, Jared Cook, Chris Givens and Kenny Britt with their Ferguson protest. (L.G. Patterson / AP)
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When it comes to the NFL and football players, Mike Ditka is old school. In fact, he may have invented old school so it probably should be only the mildest of surprises that he disapproved of five St. Louis Rams’ “hands up, don’t shoot” Ferguson protest Sunday.

Ditka, now an ESPN analyst, said he doesn’t understand the violent nature of protests of the grand jury decision not to indict police Darren Wilson in the shooting death of Michael Brown.

“It’s a shame this thing has come to this,” Ditka told the Chicago Sun-Times for his weekly feature column. “The shame of it is, I’m not sure they care about Michael Brown or anything else. This was a reason to protest and to go out and loot. Is this the way to celebrate the memory of Michael Brown? Is this an excuse to be lawless? Somebody has to tell me that. I don’t understand it.”

Nor did he understand why players would protest this and not other things.

“I understand what the Rams’ take on this was. I’m embarrassed for the players more than anything. They want to take a political stand on this?” he said. “Well, there are a lot of other things that have happened in our society that people have not stood up and disagreed about.”

Ditka admitted that he doesn’t fully understand what happened, but worries about a weakened police force.

“I wasn’t in Ferguson. I don’t know exactly what happened. But I know one thing: If we dismantle and limit the power of our policemen any more than we have already, then we’re going to have a lot of problems in this country.

“What do you do if someone pulls a gun on you or is robbing a store and you stop them? I don’t want to hear about this hands-up crap. That’s not what happened. I don’t know exactly what did happen, but I know that’s not what happened. This policeman’s life is ruined. Why? Because we have to break somebody down. Because we have to even out the game. I don’t know. I don’t get it. Maybe I’m just old fashioned.”

The five Rams players did not inform Coach Jeff Fisher of their protest and the NFL said it would not fine or discipline them over a free-speech issue, despite a plea from the St. Louis Police Officer’s Association.