Cops demand Rams players who showed solidarity with Ferguson to be punished

Cops demand Rams players who showed solidarity with Ferguson to be punished
​Five players from the St. Louis Rams professional football team showed solidarity with Ferguson protesters on Sunday by walking onto the field with their hands raised in the air. Now the local police union wants them to be punished.

The St. Louis Police Officers' Association said on Monday that the five NFL athletes who displayed the “hands-up-don’t-shoot” pose embraced by protesters in nearby Ferguson should be “disciplined” over an act the union called “tasteless, offensive and inflammatory” to cops around the United States.

Rams players Tavon Austin, Stedman Bailey, Kenny Britt, Chris Givens and Jared Cook did the gesture during Sunday’s game against the Oakland Raiders at the Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis — 11 miles from the spot where Darren Wilson, then an officer with the Ferguson Police Department, fatally shot unarmed teenager Michael Brown on August 9.

Last week, a grand jury ruled there was not enough evidence to charge Wilson, 28, in the killing, once again spawning protests in Missouri and around the nation. As during an early round of demonstrations that started when Brown was shot three months ago, protesters have adopted the “hands-up-don’t-shoot” pose while on the streets — a rallying cry meant to symbolize claims from some that Brown had his arms in the air during at least some of the 12 shots fired by Wilson.

A demonstrator protesting the shooting death of Michael Brown is arrested by police officers in riot gear November 30, 2014 in St. Louis, Missouri. (Joshua Lott / Getty Images / AFP)

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“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,” the SLPOA said Monday.

“[N]ow 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,” said Jeff Roorda, the business manager of the police union.

Roorda added that Sunday’s incident followed days of dialogue between NFL, Rams and law enforcement officials in which the league assured St. Louis police 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,” he said.

E.J. Gaines #33 of the St. Louis Rams returns an interception against the Oakland Raiders in the second quarter at the Edward Jones Dome on November 30, 2014 in St. Louis, Missouri. (Dilip Vishwanat / Getty Images / AFP)

READ MORE: ‘I have clean conscience, did my job right’: Ferguson officer Wilson on Brown's death

Previously, it was reported that Sunday’s game might be relocated over fears that the mass demonstrations that have occurred through the area all week would interfere. After an otherwise peaceful NFL game on Sunday, Roorda said the SLPOA is calling for the five athletes “to be disciplined and for the Rams and the NFL to deliver a very public apology.”

"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,” Roorda said. “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."

Monday morning, CNN reporter Rachel Nichols tweeted that the NFL will not discipline the five Rams athletes. Wilson, meanwhile, reportedly resigned from the Ferguson Police Department over the weekend.