The St. Louis Rams and the NFL will not discipline the five players who stood with their hands raised in a show of solidarity with Ferguson protesters before Sunday’s game.
Rams coach Jeff Fisher said Monday that it was his players’ “choice to exercise their free speech,” but he would not comment further on their actions.
“It’s my personal opinion, I firmly believe, that it’s important that I keep sports and politics separate,” Fisher said. “I’m a head coach. I’m not a politician, an activist or an expert on societal issues, so I’m going to answer questions about the game.”
Fisher did say he plans to talk with the players, who are all black, but those conversations will remain confidential.
Jared Cook, Kenny Britt, Chris Givens, Stedman Bailey and Tavon Austin made the “Hands up. Don’t Shoot!” gesture protesters in Ferguson — a suburb of St. Louis — have been using since a grand jury did not indict police officer Darren Wilson over the Aug. 9 shooting of Michael Brown, who was black. Some witnesses said Brown had his hands up before being shot by officer Wilson. Wilson, who is white, told the grand jury that he shot Brown in self-defense.
The players’ made their show of support before running onto the field during pregame introductions.
Later Sunday, the St. Louis Police Officer’s Association issued a statement demanding the players be disciplined and the NFL to issue an apology.
The NFL responded with a one-sentence statement Monday from spokesman Brian McCarthy: “We respect and understand the concerns of all individuals who have expressed views on this tragic situation.”
Fisher did say Rams Chief Operating Officer Kevin Demoff spoke with local law enforcement about the gesture. He declined to elaborate on the discussion.
“They will not be disciplined by the club nor will they be disciplined by the National Football League,” Fisher said of his players.
After the Rams’ 52-0 rout of Oakland, the players said they meant no disrespect by their show of support.
“We just understand that it’s a big tragedy and we hope something positive comes out of it,” Bailey said, following his five catch 100-yard performance.
Added Cook: “We help build up the people around this community daily with our visiting schools and talking to kids, so coming out and showing that we’re unified with the rest of them, it was key to us.”