I’m sure we have all heard about Ferguson, Missouri over the past few months and especially the past week. Michael Brown, an 18 year old, was killed on August 9th, 2014 by police officer Darren Wilson. Many protests and riots have occurred across the country after Darren Wilson was not indicted on any charges stemming from his shooting of Mike Brown.
Five St. Louis Rams players; Jared Cook, Kenny Britt, Stedman Bailey, Chris Givens, and Tavon Austin made their opinions heard about the case when coming out of the tunnel before Sunday’s game by raising their hands in a “don’t shoot” motion.
The St. Louis Police Officers’ Association (SLPOA) did not appreciate the gesture and issued a statement saying they were
“profoundly disappointed” in the players and found it “tasteless, offensive and inflammatory.” The SLPOA found this to be a problem because it wasn’t “the right time” to speak out against the issue. With protests and riots ongoing in Ferguson, they didn’t want any more fuel added to the fire, especially with something that was nationally televised and done by professional athletes. This reminds me a lot of what Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said when he wrote his “Letter From Birmingham Jail” in 1963. Dr. King said, “Frankly, I have yet to engage in a direct action campaign that was “well timed” in the view of those who have not suffered unduly from the disease of segregation.” His words ring true in this situation with the Rams players. My question to the St. Louis Police Department is, if their gesture on Sunday was not “the right time,” when would be? Would there ever be a “right time” to stand up and protest Mike Brown’s fatal shooting? Regardless of when it would have been done, it would have brought attention to the situation in Ferguson. Although the police department viewed the gesture as untimely, there was no better time to support Mike Brown, in my opinion. With millions of people watching, five men had the courage to take a stand on an important societal issue.
In Peter Dreier and Kelly Candaele’s article titled “Where Are All the Jocks for Justice,” they discuss how athletes rarely speak up and share their opinions “when it comes to political dissent, few speak out on big issues like war, sweatshop labor, environmental concerns or the increasing gap between rich and poor.” This peaceful nod to the tragic situation in Ferguson is a rare example of professional athletes voicing their opinions of an important issue. The actions of these players have sparked a national conversation regarding police brutality, racial profiling, and racism in the United States today. Without the actions of such prominent and famous people, these important topics may not have been as widely discussed as they have been over the past week.