No fines for Rams players involved in Ferguson protest

Reuters
Five Rams players showed support for Ferguson protesters, standing with raised hands during introductions.

EARTH CITY, Mo. -- The five St. Louis Rams players who entered the field before Sunday's game with their hands in the air in a "don't shoot" pose in support of the nearby Ferguson, Mo., protests will not be fined for their actions.

The St. Louis Police Officers Association said the five Rams players who stood with their hands raised before Sunday's game against the Oakland Raiders in St. Louis should be disciplined and the NFL should publicly apologize.

Brian McCarthy, the NFL's vice president of communications, released a statement Monday: "We respect and understand the concerns of all individuals who have expressed views on this tragic situation."

Late Monday afternoon, Rams coach Jeff Fisher, who said after the game he wasn't aware of what the players did, talked briefly about the situation but indicated the players would not be disciplined by the club.

"I'm a head coach," Fisher said. "I'm not a politician, an activist or an expert on societal issues. I made a decision a long time to keep politics and sports separate."

He did say that team chief operating officer Kevin Demoff had discussions Monday with the police department and law enforcement, but he would not elaborate. As for the players, Fisher said, "I have not talked to the five players that made the choice to exercise their free speech yesterday. I have not talked to them as of yet; I will. Those conversations will most likely remain confidential."

When Fisher was pressed about commenting, he stated simply, "I'm a football coach." He did add that the club had business owners from Ferguson as their guests for the game and all players locked arms as a symbol of unity during the national anthem. Fans were asked to do the same.

The players used the team's pregame introductions to offer a show of support.

As the Rams' offense was introduced, tight end Jared Cook and receivers Kenny BrittStedman Bailey,Chris Givens and Tavon Austin stopped near the tunnel and raised their hands in a nod to the fatal shooting of unarmed teenager Michael Brown by Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson on Aug. 9. Some witnesses said Brown, who was black, had his hands up before being shot. Wilson, who is white, testified to the grand jury that Brown hit him and reached for his gun before fleeing.

There were riots, looting and buildings burned in Ferguson since a grand jury declined last week to indict Wilson.

Some players also made the gesture early in the game after plays, including Britt, Bailey, running backTre Mason and special teams standout Daren Bates.

"We kind of came collectively together and decided we wanted to do something," Cook said after the Rams' 52-0 victory over the Raiders. "We haven't been able to go down to Ferguson to do anything because we have been busy. Secondly, it's kind of dangerous down there and none of us want to get caught up in anything.

"So we wanted to come out and show our respect to the protests and the people who have been doing a heck of a job around the world."

Cook said he plans to go to Ferguson once things settle down.

"My sister, brother-in-law, sister-in-law -- all of them went this past week for Thanksgiving," Cook said. "They came back and reported to me about the things they saw and what was going on around there. Definitely, I will be making a trip to Ferguson."

Britt said he and his teammates were not "taking sides" with their display, according to ESPN.com.

"We wanted to show that we are organized for a great cause and something positive comes out of it," Britt said. "That's what we hope we can make happen. That's our community. We wanted to let the community know that we support the community."

The St. Louis Police Officers Association released a statement Sunday night.

"The SLPOA is calling for the players involved to be disciplined and for the Rams and the NFL to deliver a very public apology," the statement read in part.

"I know that there are those that will say that these players are simply exercising their First Amendment rights," SLPOA business manager Jeff Roorda said in the statement. "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 advertisers' 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."

The Rams released a statement Monday night, which read: "We had positive discussions today with St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department Chief Sam Dotson, St. Louis County Chief of Police Chief Jon Belmar and representatives from the St. Louis Police Officers' Association and St. Louis County Police Association during which we expressed our respect for their concerns surrounding yesterday's game. What has transpired over the past four months is a tragedy that has impacted our entire community. Together we are beginning a healing process that will require time, energy and honest dialogue. The Rams will continue to build on what have always been strong and valued relationships with local law enforcement and the greater St. Louis community as we come together to help heal our region."

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