The fact that five St. Louis Rams football players put their “hands up” at a game last Sunday has become a national flashpoint for talking about cops, race and crime.
And that’s a good thing, as uncivil as some of the discussion has been.
If you support the gestures made by the Rams players, then you supposedly hate police and must want to see unprotected black neighborhoods burn in the future.
If you don’t support the players, then you’re supposedly some kind of pro-cop nut who thinks it’s OK to kill young black men.
In reality, there are a lot of points in the middle of those two wildly different and both irresponsible conclusions.
Let’s sort things out.
▪ The Rams players had the perfect right to act the way they did to acknowledge what has happened after the killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo. It’s simply inane, as former Chicago Bears coach Mike Ditka did, to contend the hands up gesture was tacit approval of looting and burning of stores.
▪ The St. Louis Police Officers Association had the perfect right to be offended and request an apology. The language the group used was off-base, however, when it seemed to imply the cops could decide whom to protect and serve.
▪ The Rams officials had the perfect right to say they supported their players’ actions while saying they also respected law enforcement. It turned out to be a fumbled non-apology apology, satisfying no one.
▪ And a group representing black officers had the perfect right to say it broke with the white-dominated officers association to back up the players’ hands-up reaction.
The harmless physical gesture from the Rams has generated plenty of rhetoric on social media and in offices and bars around the country.
And while some of that discussion has veered badly off base and been in bad taste, it also has caused more Americans to become engaged in talking about the problems this nation faces when it comes to cops, race and crime.
That’s appropriate because we need as a nation to discuss how different people see these kinds of matters in wholly different lights because of their life experiences.