It was good to see that the NFL decided not to follow the St. Louis Police Officers Association request to discipline the St. Louis Rams players, who during pre-game introductions Sunday while the TV cameras were rolling, put their hands up in solidarity with the protesters in Ferguson, Mo.
Part of the ongoing protests since the Aug. 9 fatal shooting of an unarmed black teenager by a white Ferguson police officer has been over the intense level of disrespect police have for the rights of African Americans. The St. Louis Police Officers Association did itself no favors, seeking disciplinary action against players for the Rams.
Michael Brown, 18, was shot to death by then-Officer Darren Wilson. The shooting ignited numerous protests, some violent. A state grand jury last week decided not to bring charges against Wilson, who afterward resigned from the Police Department. More protests, many violent with looting and arrests, have occurred in Ferguson and nationwide after the grand jury decision.
Clearly mistakes have been made in the case on both sides in this ongoing dispute, and thank goodness the NFL did not add to the problems. The players holding their hands in the air signified their solidarity with protesters who have used the “hands up, don’t shoot” chant and action as they have marched symbolizing some accounts of what Brown did before being shot.
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If discipline had occurred on the Rams players, it would have brought back images of the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City in which Gold medalist Tommie Smith and bronze medalist John Carlos bowed their heads and each raised a black-gloved fist in a black power salute as the American national anthem played. Both of the top finishers in the 200-meter dash were expelled from Olympic Village for the gesture, suspended from the U.S. team and received death threats.
Let’s hope that ugly attacks like that on athletes will never be repeated so that athletes as role models can become more politically active.