St. Louis Rams Players Raised Hands

December 2, 2014
Written by Jim Salter in
National Collegiate Dialogue, Race Relations, Stereotypes & Labels
Login to rate this article
Members of the St. Louis Rams raise their arms in awareness of the events in Ferguson, Mo., as they walk onto the field during introductions before an NFL football game against the Oakland Raiders, Sunday, Nov. 30, 2014, in St. Louis. The players said after the game, they raised their arms in a "hands up" gesture to acknowledge the events in Ferguson.
Members of the St. Louis Rams raise their arms in awareness of the events in Ferguson, Mo., as they walk onto the field during introductions before an NFL football game against the Oakland Raiders, Sunday, Nov. 30, 2014, in St. Louis. The players said after the game, they raised their arms in a "hands up" gesture to acknowledge the events in Ferguson. Photo Credit: The Associated Press, L. G. Patterson.

St. Louis Rams players raised their hands as they walked onto the football field in Sunday’s nationally televised game to show solidarity with other protesters in Ferguson and across the nation about the tragic death of a young unarmed black teen by a police officer. Questions remain in the minds of many people and communities across the country about how the incident was handled in determining facts and meting out justice for both the teen and the officer.

Five St. Louis Rams players entered the football field with their hands raised. A day later, Americans walked out of work or school showing the same gesture of solidarity with Ferguson protesters after a grand jury decided not to indict the white officer who shot and killed Michael Brown, an unarmed black 18-year-old.

The pose has come to symbolize a movement, even though witnesses offered conflicting accounts of whether Brown had his hands up in surrender when he was killed Darren Wilson.

Protests turned violent last week in the St. Louis area after a grand jury decided not to indict Wilson for shooting Brown during an August confrontation that had inflamed racial tensions across America.

The power of the symbol was evident again Monday. Protesters across the U.S. walked off the job or away from class in support of the Ferguson protesters. Walkouts took place in New York, Chicago, San Francisco and elsewhere.

At the University of Missouri-St. Louis, not far from Ferguson, about 30 students chanted "Hands up. Don't shoot!"

Amber Whitaker, who is white, was among the student protesters. She said the symbolism is what matters, not whether Brown literally had his hands in the air.

"There are black men and women who are shot with their hands up," Whitaker said. "There are black men and women who are shot unarmed. It may not apply exactly to Mike Brown, but it still happens."

The exact circumstances surrounding Brown's death will forever be in dispute.

Wilson told the grand jury that he shot Brown in self-defense. But several witnesses said Brown had his hands up in surrender. "Hands Up. Don't Shoot!" has become a rallying cry for protesters.

Witness accounts contained in thousands of pages of grand jury documents reviewed by The Associated Press showed many variations about whether Brown's hands were actually raised - and if so, how high.

Some people were offended by the hands-up gesture.

Officers wearing riot gear walk through a park Sunday, Nov. 30, 2014, in downtown St. Louis. Police and protesters clashed after an NFL football game between the St. Louis Rams and the Oakland Raiders as protests continued following a grand jury's decision not to indict a Ferguson police officer in the shooting death of Michael Brown.

The St. Louis Police Officers Association said the display by St. Louis Rams football players Tavon Austin, Kenny Britt, Stedman Bailey, Jared Cook and Chris Givens was "tasteless, offensive and inflammatory."

The group, joined by the St. Louis County Police Association, met with Rams leaders Monday. Rams coach Jeff Fisher said during a news conference that neither the team nor the NFL will discipline the five players for the gesture.

Fisher said it was his players' "choice to exercise their free speech" and that he would not comment further on their actions. He did say he plans to talk with the players, who are all black, but those conversations will remain confidential.

The National Football League issued a one-sentence statement from spokesman Brian McCarthy: "We respect and understand the concerns of all individuals who have expressed views on this tragic situation."

The episode recalled a famous one that occurred more than four decades ago at the Mexico City Summer Olympics in 1968, when the U.S. was roiled by racial turbulence.

African-American sprinters John Carlos and Tommie Smith gave the black power salute while on the medal stand.

"If they choose to come out and raise their hands in support of whatever their emotions are, they have the right to do that," Carlos told The Associated Press. "I don't think the whole story has been told about the Michael Brown tragedy, and the pros and cons on both sides. They can just go by their emotions. I don't think anyone got injured or shot by expressing emotions."

The White House on Monday announced the conclusion of a three-month review of the Ferguson situation. President Barack Obama wants more officers to wear cameras to promote trust, but he is not seeking to reduce federal programs that provide the type of military-style equipment used to dispel the unrest in Ferguson and elsewhere.

Brown's family wants to see every police officer working the streets wearing a body camera.

The Ferguson Commission appointed by Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon met Monday for the first time. The 16-person panel will study the underlying social and economic conditions - from failing schools to high unemployment- that have gained attention since Brown's death.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press.

National Collegiate Dialogue, Race Relations, Stereotypes & Labels


Be Smart

Submitted by PARKF2014-06 on

Those players are using their power to stand up or what they believe is right. Nothing is wrong with that but we must realize that also a speech to stop the violence should be an act of them as well. To me this is fueling the fire that has been going on already. We need peace not violence to make things worse.


Submitted by PARKF2014-12 on

They are fueling the fire! It's not right that they think they can do this without any punishment or action taken by the NFL. I feel like if some punishment were to happen it would be considered racial. I just don't know what to think of all of this. I feel like, just like everything else, the media is making matters worse.

being smart

Submitted by PARKF2014-15 on

first I have to say that maybe it was smart for them to raise there hands to symbolize another innocent African American being killed. the players are only showing respect for our people. Dr. King gave a speech and he was killed for basically standing up for US. before we get piece violence is what has to occur they don't hear our cries though speech. we have to get real ugly and tear down our community before someone tries to change the unjust system.

Making things worse

Submitted by PARKF2014-04 on

I agree, this is fuel to the fire. The more people act like this, the more the situation will get out of hand. Just like I believe the people rioting took advantage of the situation and many people didn't riot for the reasons we think they were. These athlete are at a too high status to act like this and their actions reflect on other people. Yes they are allowed an opinion but why act out? They should have took a more mature approach and kept their emotions behind closed doors. At the end of the day, their actions don't make anything better about this situation.


Submitted by PARKF2014-12 on

I think these players should have been fined or some sort of disciplinary action should have taken place. At the same time, a letter of apology should have been written by the Rams organization. I know the actions of these players were innocent but it is just giving everyone else again police officers more fuel to continue to act out. It's frustrating because this is all blowing up way too much!


Submitted by PARKF2014-15 on

now put your shoes in MB parents and I want you to take a moment and think about your son being shot to death and the world is trying to take a stand for your baby. you wouldn't be saying they should get a fine. you would be right with them. and your mind set would probably be F the police at. we from the show me state. get with it.


Submitted by PARKF2014-04 on

I don't necessarily think that the players should have been fined because they have the freedom to show their emotions but I think that this was immature and I agree with you that these players are just adding fuel to the fire, making this issue become out of hand just like it has.


Submitted by PARKF2014-12 on

Do these players not realize that they're idols to many and their actions influence others? They're fueling the fire that is already out of control. By them walking out like that, they're displaying that they can do whatever they want when the whole nation is looking. Younger generations will now, most likely, act out on their own and think that they can get away with this. It's troubling how people can turn this whole incident into a racial thing. If I feel threatened for my life, I'm going to act on it. This whole incident has nothing to do with anyone other than the people involved. The problem is, everyone else makes it their problem. Ignorance.


Submitted by PARKF2014-12 on

In a mature way, those players, if they believe inequality has taken place, then they should have spoke out and made known what they believe. Honestly, the actions they took could be portrayed as pro-Brown or pro-Wilson. Man up, don't be ignorant, and make your opinion known if you believe that strongly.


Submitted by PARKF2014-15 on

have you heard of a moment of silence for those who were killed? I don't feel like the players were being ignorant I feel like they were taking a first step in speaking to the community. witness say they saw brown with his hands up. so they walked out with there hands up symbolizing that there are innocent BLACK MEN.


Submitted by PARKF2014-04 on

I think you are right. They are also taking advantage of their status, these athlete know they are being watched so behave this way to put their point across. If they have such strong emotions on this issues they should have said something in a more mature way. There is no proof that Brown had his hands up and there is no proof that he was not guilty.

Rioting, looting, burning...

Submitted by PARKF2014-06 on

These measures are just taken way to far. Look there is not freedom of speech at schools and work. These guys have a job to do just like us but they are getting paid to play sports. I don't watch football for political opinions. If these guys want to have a hands up protest in their front lawn on their time more power to them. But when they put on a uniform in exchange for millions they are on their jobs and must get to work. Most NFL fans don't want a bunch of political drama. You pay high fees for tickets and cable and what not. We need escape in our culture. It is just too much. While you may feel you have freedom of speech at work, just give it a go and see how long you keep your job. Everyone has a right to peaceful protest and everyone has a right to free speech on their time.


Submitted by PARKF2014-15 on

we pay taxes, we even pay for our children to go to college. well because of the actions that were taking place another Black male was not offered the same opportunity as you. its hard enough to have any recognition as an AA in a positive manor. now how do you think it made the mother feel? stop being selfish and thinking about your self. have a heart because if it was your child would want the world to acknowledge the wrong doing.

The Power of Professional Athletes

Submitted by PARKF2014-10 on

The power that professional athletes have over many young minds, people all over the country and even the world amazes me. People are entirely focused on what an athlete or any celebrity does. I do not see anything wrong with these players or even celebs doing what is right for them, as long as they are aware that their actions affect many others than just their own self.


Submitted by PARKF2014-15 on

I cant agree more with you. we look up to people like that who has a name in the society. I would be mad if they didn't show they respect.


Submitted by PARKF2014-04 on

True, I agree. However, these athletes should be aware that every single one of their actions is being watched. Many young children copy their idols and role models when they don't actually know what it means. Imagine little kids starting to do this in school because they saw their favorite player do it but doesn't understand why.


Submitted by PARKF2014-15 on

those words should taste real sour coming out of your mouth. an unarmed man. Idgaf if MB was 6'7 he was unarmed and he still should be here today. my issue is that Wilson wasn't indicted. and that was final. that's not what I learned in all those history classes whatever happened to trial? Wilson know the boy was innocent that why for the rest of his life he has to live with that decision. now he has to really protect his family because there is a angry mob out there. one thing he can indict to is that he made history

It is important to be

Submitted by PARKF2014-16 on

It is important to be informed on the case of Michael Brown. We must first understand that unarmed does not mean he was not dangerous. I know plenty of people who could seriously hurt me without using a weapon, and apparently Brown did not stop charging the officer. The officer should not have aimed for the head until Brown was closer and still not stopping, but that is exactly why you do not charged an armed officer whose job is to protect the people. In this way, Brown was a threat. I am so glad that Wilson was not indicted because he was going to be found innocent anyway and I feared that he would be killed. Since the Grand Jury indicted him, hopefully they will be blamed and people will not target Wilson. I think being proven innocent would have been a death sentence to an officer that tried his best to protect himself and others. Brown was also proven to have robbed a store and had marijuana in his system, which is still illegal in Missouri. I hope both Wilson's and Brown's family stays safe. I do not think this should be a racial issue. An officer defended himself, and the "victim" just happened to be black.


Submitted by PARKF2014-04 on

Yes, these players and other people have the right and freedom to express their emotions but not on something nobody knows the real truth about. None of these players were at the scene and actually saw what happened and they are judging on what other people have said. One problem that remains in society is jumping to conclusions. Personally I believe that the grand jury's decision was correct but that's just an opinion, just like everyone has. I will never know what actually happened just like most other people. The difference is I keep it to myself because I wasn't there and don't know the real truth of what happened. There are different sides to this story that I think it's unfair on the two men involved that people are jumping to conclusions.

Causing an uproar

Submitted by PARKF2014-17 on

I agree in that yes, being an NFL player gives one some pretty good standing on being able to have your voice heard. But right now the NFL is doing a phenomenal job at raising awareness on Domestic Violence. They need to stay out of what is going on with Ferguson and such. You may be famous and all but you are under contract and if your "company" doesn't want to be labeled under certain opinions, you can get in serious trouble!

Although the NFL did not

Submitted by PARKF2014-16 on

Although the NFL did not punish the players, I wonder if their coaches punished them for making this stance against the opinions of many. If this is something they truly believe in and are passionate about, they should have found another way to make their views known. I'm sure they could have found a news station to listen to them give a speech if they had written one.

I found the gestures made by

Submitted by PARKF2014-16 on

I found the gestures made by the players to be ignorant. It has been proven that Michael Brown did not have his hands up when he was shot. So why is everyone saying "hands up don't shoot"? I'm sure others have been shot with their hands up, but Brown was not. They need to stop connecting this gesture to Brown because it is inaccurate and makes them seem like they are not informed on the matter. They should protest racial injustice but not in this way, especially not when this probably caused more destruction rather than good.