If you’ve ever wondered what it takes to turn hard-nosed police officers into pearl-clutching caricatures of what it means to be offended, look no further than yesterday’s St. Louis Rams home game. Upon taking the field to play the Oakland Raiders (whose performance is the truly offensive thing in all this), five Rams players — Tavon Austin, Stedman Bailey, Jared Cook, Chris Givens, and Kenny Britt — emerged from the tunnel with their hands up in homage to Michael Brown. Brown, of course, was the 18 year-old gunned down by police officer Darren Wilson in nearby Ferguson, Mo. on Aug. 9, and since then, “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot” has become a rallying cry for those alleging police brutality. Last week, a grand jury opted not to indict Wilson on any of the five charges presented in a decision move that some say is “incredibly rare.”
The players’ display didn’t sit well with the St. Louis Police Officers Association, who issued one of the most self-pitying statements imaginable, which read in part:
The SLPOA is calling for the players involved to be disciplined and for the Rams and the NFL to deliver a very public apology. [Business manager Jeff] 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.”
Boo fucking hoo.
The NFL has already said it won’t fine the players and basically told Roorda to go screw himself, which he’s done in the past. You see, Roorda — also Missouri state representative — is a friend of Wilson’s and a disgraced ex-cop who got himself kicked off the force. He has a history of lying.
Quite obviously, those Rams players don’t agree with the grand jury’s decision, as is their right. If they want to express frustration or solidarity over what they perceive as a lack of justice by quietly raising their hands before a game, so be it. And while it’s understandable that the SLPOA and Roorda would want to defend one of their own, demanding that these players be punished and calling for the team to apologize lest the group organize a boycott, is more becoming of a group of undergrads at Oxford or Berkeley rather than an association of hardened cops.
Furthermore, that Roorda — a white former police officer — is calling for five black men to be disciplined for daring to express disagreement about a racially-charged event is staggeringly tone-deaf.
And really, few things are more pathetic than threatening a boycott over something like this. If there are Rams fans out there who won’t watch the team or alter their spending habits because five players out of the 53 on the team made a brief and non-obscene gesture before — not even during, but before — a game, then those fans really need to evaluate where they’re at in life.
Meanwhile Roorda should evaluate the Rams performance yesterday. Whatever the team did and didn’t do to prepare for the game clearly worked, as they rolled 52-0.