Hands Up; Don’t Shoot

On Sunday last, as the Rams’ offense was introduced on the field, tight end Jared Cook and receivers Kenny Britt, Stedman Bailey, Chris Givens, and Tavon Austin stopped near the tunnel and raised their hands in the gesture that’s become a symbol of the strain and unrest in Ferguson, Missouri.

nfl_a_rams01jr_C_600x400Apparently, this put a lot of people right off their feed.

“St. Louis, Missouri (November 30, 2014) – 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.

“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.

“The SLPOA is calling for the players involved to be disciplined and for the Rams and the NFL to deliver a very public apology. Roorda said he planned to speak to the NFL and the Rams to voice his organization’s displeasure tomorrow. He also plans to reach out to other police organizations in St. Louis and around the country to enlist their input on what the appropriate response from law enforcement should be. Roorda warned, “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.”

Um…. no.

My take on this – for what it’s worth – is that the people who object to this are the same people who want us all to just stop talking about it, because the more we talk about it, the angrier we’re likely to get and the more likely it is we will demand that something meaningful be done about the blatant discrimination and injustice that Mike Brown’s murder has come to represent.

This afternoon, while enjoying lunch out with Bean and my favorite nephew who’s visiting from England, I overheard two older ladies talking about Ferguson. The one facing me, whom I could clearly hear, was in the “the kid was a thug and a thief” camp; she was spewing all the character assassinations and racial bullshit that the right wing media has been hammering ever since Mike Brown was gunned down in the street, as if the kid’s demeanor justified his murder.

As I walked past their table, I wondered what, exactly, makes people like these women feel the way they do (if, in fact, they really feel that way; there’s a possibility that they’re just parroting the prescribed message and really don’t know what they think themselves).  There is clearly something about this – something well beyond the murder of an unarmed teenager – that makes people (especially white people) deeply uncomfortable.


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